When you are on the road in Pennsylvania, you probably have more things on your mind than noticing guardrails along the highway. You are probably even less likely to notice the black and yellow striped rectangles that sit on the ends of some of those guardrails. After developments in the last few months, perhaps you should pay more attention to those rectangles.
Those black and yellow rectangles could be an ET-Plus guardrail end treatment. It is designed to prevent the occupants of a vehicle from suffering severe injures should their car crash into the end of the guardrail during an accident.
The ET-Plus, and its predecessor, were designed to push the rail away from a vehicle that hits the guardrail, absorbing some of the energy of the collision and preventing the rail acting like a spear and impaling the vehicle and worse, the driver and passengers.
In some car accidents, the ET-Plus appears to have malfunctioned and allowed the rail to enter the passenger compartment of the vehicle. These crashes have resulted in severe injuries and a few deaths.
Numerous states have banned further installations of the ET-Plus, and Pennsylvania has suspended new installations. PennDOT is waiting for test results from federal regulators to determine if it should remove the existing units.
There are about 9,500 of these units in Pennsylvania, which would make removal and retrofitting with new end treatments very expensive. Of course, if the units are defective, not as expensive as it will be to defend a lawsuit brought by some injured or killed by the defect.
CBS Pittsburg, “Safety Of Guardrails Lining Hundreds Of Miles Of Pa. Roads Called Into Question,” John Shumway, November 6, 2014