You’ve probably never noticed those flat pieces of metal at the ends of guardrails on roadways across the nation but they’re considered incredibly important by transportation officials. Because guardrails are designed to crumple in an accident, these flat pieces of metal, also called end terminals, are supposed to make sure that the guardrails do not protrude into a vehicle and further injure any occupants.

But according to a lawsuit that was filed against one manufacturer of these devices, one particular design of these terminals isn’t achieving its goal of saving lives but is instead putting more lives in danger. According to the lawsuit, a change in the terminal’s design prevents it from containing the guardrail in an accident, meaning the steel of the guardrail is able to penetrate a vehicle’s interior, injuring occupants inside.

The reason our California readers may have reason for concern is the fact that this defective guardrail design was sold to state’s all over America, possibly even in our state as well. In the first three quarters of this year, sales of this defective design gained Trinity Industries, the manufacturer named in the lawsuit, $33 million. But this seems to be pennies compared to the $175 million in restitution one jury in another state is forcing the company to pay out for the defect.

Since the verdict, the Trinity has agreed to discontinue sales of the terminal until further safety tests can be administered. That way not only will the manufacturer know how safe their product is but it may either confirm or deny concerns regarding the guardrail’s continued use in the United States.

With potentially thousands of these end terminals in use across the nation, completed safety tests will be needed soon, especially if the end terminals have already proven to be a danger and a factor in several fatal accidents. The sooner safety tests prove this fact, the sooner state governments can begin the process of making roadways safer by removing the defective end terminals.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Company Stops Selling Dangerous Guardrail,” David Lee, Oct. 27, 2014