Guardrails are found on roads and are designed to keep vehicles from traveling into an area more dangerous than the road. They often deflect the vehicle back into the road, which makes the vehicle prone to collision with traffic, either oncoming traffic or traffic going the same way as the vehicle.
Motorists generally trust that the guardrail will protect them from serious harm. This may be true but the height of a guardrail appropriate for a sedan may cause a rollover accident in a light truck or a motorcyclist might just slip under the barrier, rendering it useless in protecting the rider.
The most serious guardrail accidents occur on the highways when high speeds are involved. While the guardrail is often designed to prevent a vehicle from striking a hazard, it is sometimes better to remove the hazard than it is to have the equally hazardous guardrail in the way.
While some guardrail accidents are caused by the motorist who is speeding or who is driving recklessly, other accidents related to guardrails are due to improperly maintained guardrails. Motorists have been seriously injured due to a lack of maintenance of guardrails or a problem with their construction.
Guardrails are designed to make sure injuries are at a minimum, they can fail or the vehicle can collide with the guardrail, causing the most injurious and fatal of all fixed object collisions with the exception of trees. Experts feel they should only be installed when a collision with the guardrail is expected to be less injurious than colliding with the thing the guardrail is protecting the traveler from.
To ensure the maximum safety and effectiveness, traffic barriers need to undergo simulation and laboratory testing, including crash testing, before they can be used in general use by the general populace. While crash testing is not perfect, it does seem to help indicate which safety barriers are helpful and which aren’t.
Guardrails also prevent cars and trucks from falling into ravines or down cliffs. In such cases, the guardrail generally is responsible for saving lives and for reducing injuries. The guardrail that just defines the road better is more dangerous than having nothing at all.
Most guardrails are able to withstand the impact of a vehicle colliding with it because it is just one strong band of steel that transmits the force to a ground anchor at the base of the rail. Concrete barriers are better able to withstand the force of trucks hitting against it. While more serious accidents are generally prevented with guardrails, they provide the highest degree of injuries and fatalities of all objects on the road. The end designs have a tendency to either deflect a crash, absorb the crash or launch the vehicle into the air.
If the vehicle is deflected, it can be dangerous because the vehicle can go into oncoming traffic. More modern guardrails will deform when crashed into. In total, there were 1,180 fatalities from guardrails in 2005 and 35,000 injury accidents. The greatest chance of reducing fatalities will be coming up with ways of reducing the numbers of motorcycles killed in guardrail crashes. Currently, motorcyclists account for 32 percent of all guardrail fatalities. Light trucks with a side impact account for 14 percent of all fatalities.