ODOT temporarily stops installation of certain guardrail

ODOT is suspending the use of the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail. FOX23 has been following the lawsuits that claim the product in defective.

TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is temporarily suspending the future installation of one type of guardrail on Oklahoma roads.

In July, a FOX23 investigation revealed that one of the nine guardrails used in Oklahoma is coming under national scrutiny, and this week, a whistleblower won a lawsuit against its manufacturer.

FOX23's Rick Maranon spoke to that whistleblower last summer and learned what new changes ODOT is now putting in place this week.

Joshua Harmon took FOX23 to a Trinity ET-Plus guardrail on Highway 75 in West Tulsa where he wanted to showed us where the guardrail head or end terminal had failed on impact and bent into a sharp wedge that can be hazardous to drivers.

"The mother that got distracted, the grandmother. The guardrail went through and cut both her legs off. The Marine who fell asleep, it cut both his legs off. The grandmother didn't survive; the Marine did," Harmon said.

Harmon has documented multiple crashes where the guardrail has bent into a wedge and entered the car's passenger cabin. On Tuesday, he won a lawsuit against the guardrail's manufacturer Trinity Industries that states the company has put out conflicting information about the performance of the ET-Plus.

That victory caused Oklahoma and at least six other states to put a temporary halt on the use of the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail. ODOT will not be removing any ET-Plus, but it will also not be adding or replacing any guardrails with the ET-Plus either.
"Safety really is a priority for us. We want to make sure that anything not performing as expected, or we are seeing a series of problems, that we would take steps to correct that," said Kenna Carmon with ODOT.

ODOT claimed last summer that the guardrails met Federal safety standards, but now it is asking the federal government to review the ET-Plus guardrail and the performance concerns brought up by Harmon in the lawsuit.

"Once we get that clarification from the Federal Highway Administration, that will help us see the path on what will happen next," Carmon said.

FOX23 asked Trinity Industries for comment, but did not receive one. However, when Nevada suspended the use of the ET-Plus, Trinity said it was working to provide the Federal government with the information it needed to feel confident in the ET-Plus's performance.

A separate trial will take place soon that will specifically focus on whether or not the ET-Plus is truly defective.

FOX23 wants clarify that even though Harmon showed us an ET-Plus model involved in a Tulsa crash last summer, a Tulsa Police and ODOT investigation determined that a drunk driver hit the end terminal at an angle and not head on. ODOT said it has not received a single documented complaint about the ET-Plus in Oklahoma.