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More Controversy Appears in Case Questioning Highway Guardrail Safety

A mistrial has been declared in a federal lawsuit which alleges that some highway guardrails across the country pose a deadly risk to drivers.

The lawsuit was filed by a whistleblower alleging that guardrails produced by Trinity Industries, a Texas-based guardrail manufacturer, are malfunctioning and killing drivers. The lawsuit further charges that the guardrail defect is the result of a product change that the company hid from the government and safety inspectors.

The judge dismissed the case over what he found to be “inappropriate conduct” on both sides, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The judge suggested that representatives from Trinity Industries may have tampered with witnesses. Further, the judge found that the whistleblower and plaintiff, Joshua Harman, may have destroyed evidence.

Since Harman has come forward with the charge of a product defect, numerous accident victims have claimed that guardrails malfunctioned, causing injury or death. A recent article by Bloomberg News noted that at least nine lawsuits have been filed by victims claiming personal injury or wrongful death caused by the guardrail malfunction.

The danger, according to Harman, is the end-cap on some of the guard rails. Allegedly, an impact plate that is meant to absorb energy and move along with the car can instead malfunction and pierce through the car, grievously injuring those inside.

Trinity Industries denies that any secret change was made to the guardrails. The company acknowledges that a change was made, but it insists that all regulatory bodies were appropriately informed and that all necessary safety testing was performed. The company also insists that the guardrails function properly, and it has not recalled any of the hundreds of thousands of implicated guardrails that currently line highways across the United States.

The case in question is Harman v. Trinity Industries, 2:12-cv-00089, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District TX.

Texas Named Among the 10 Most Dangerous States for Pedestrians

A new report on fatalities from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that Texas is one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians.  

In 2012, the rate of pedestrian fatalities in Texas was 1.83 per 100,000 population — meaning that nearly two out of every 100,000 Texans were struck and killed by a motor vehicle in 2012.

This figure makes Texas the 10th most dangerous state for pedestrians. 

Experts agree that infrastructure is a key element in pedestrian safety, and the American Society of Civil Engineers claims that in 2012, nearly 40 percent of Texas roadways were in poor or mediocre condition.

When asked about the recent data from the NHTSA, officials from the Texas Department of Transportation pointed to unsafe and distracted driving as the key issue. Robert Archuleta, a transportation official with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, also told reporters he believed cell phone use while driving — particularly texting — was a significant factor.

The NHTSA noted that the number of pedestrians killed nationwide has been rising steadily since 2009, even while the number of overall traffic fatalities has generally decreased.

According to the NHTSA data, pedestrians are most likely to be killed or injured by motor vehicles between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. — when children are coming home from school and adults are coming home from work. However, there is also a spike in pedestrian fatalities between midnight and 3:00 a.m. on weekends. Data suggests that this spike could be due to an increase in nightlife coupled with low visibility.

The other states rounding out the top ten most dangerous states are Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, New Mexico and Delaware.