Do Guardrails Really Prevent Accidents?

You expect road safety devices like guardrails to work and not just be installed to give a false sense of security to drivers. The Delaware car accident attorneys at Silverman, McDonald & Friedman care about road safety and the safety of your family. We provide Delaware citizens access to legal services in our offices located in Newark, Wilmington, and Seaford.

Do Guardrails Really Prevent Accidents?

Few things are more terrifying than spinning out of control on a roadway and possibly flipping over into a ditch, or sliding down an embankment. Departments of Transportation have installed guardrails and cable median barriers all over the country in order to prevent accidents like these from happening.

But are these safety mechanisms doing their job? Today we will take a look at how guardrails work, and whether they actually prevent motor vehicle collisions such as commercial truck accidents.

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What is the purpose of guardrails?

Guardrails were initially meant to prevent vehicles from flying off the road if a driver was hit by another vehicle or struck an obstruction in the roadway. Today we can add distracted driving and speeding to the mix of reasons this 1960s safety feature is still in use. Cable median barriers have a similar purpose in as much as they are intended to prevent crossover accidents by keeping vehicles on their side of the highway.

What happens if you hit a guardrail?

There are different types of guardrail systems that are installed, which all depends on the location, soil and other factors assessed by the Department of Transportation. Certain guardrails will:

  • Deflect a vehicle so that it diverts back onto the road
  • Allow the vehicle to come to a complete stop
  • Slow the vehicle in a manner that lets it pass just behind the guardrail

In head-on collisions, guardrails absorb the vehicle’s energy while crumpling away from the car. For an angled impact, the guardrail bends and eventually bends in a way that directs the vehicle behind it.

How effective are guard rails?

According to Delaware’s most recent Annual Traffic Statistical Report, in 2019 there were 588 collisions between vehicles and guardrails and median barriers around the state. Approximately one quarter of those accidents resulted in injury or death. You might say that’s a high success rate but 25 percent is still a high personal injury rate, not to mention there was a 75 percent rate of property damage.

Guardrails are no match for eighteen-wheelers

There also happened to be 780 accidents involving semi-trucks. How many times have you cautiously driven behind an eighteen-wheeler observing the oversized vehicle swerving across lane lines or kicking up dust when it veers onto the shoulder? Guardrails have limitations and their effectiveness is easily compromised by the size and speed of a vehicle. That means they’re not likely to prevent catastrophe from happening when a big rig is involved.

Guardrails are built to absorb the force of cars and smaller SUVs. When a 60,000 pound truck hits one at 60 miles per hour, it’s going to drive straight through it. Even at lower speeds, guardrails can actually cause injury and death when semis are involved. Last month in Delaware City a truck driver died when his truck struck a guardrail as he was trying to negotiate an exit ramp. The weight of the truck coupled with the impact made the guardrail instrumental in the truck rolling over onto its roof. Had there been other vehicles near this freightliner at the time, there could have been more fatalities.

The tools used for highway safety should be updated to encompass all vehicles that regularly use our roadways. Delaware is a hot spot for traffic traveling up and down the coast, which includes commercial vehicles. It stands to reason that our roads should be safe for our residents and visitors, however no amount of guardrail systems will eliminate the threat trucks will always pose to smaller vehicles.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because a guardrail failed to stop a semi, let our resourceful Delaware truck accident attorneys at Silverman, McDonald & Friedman hold those responsible accountable to you. You may have a right to compensation for your injuries. To schedule your free case evaluation in our Wilmington, Seaford, or Newark office, call 302-888-2900, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.