Guardrails: Helpful or Harmful


Guardrails: Helpful or Harmful

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer. Guardrails along a road are designed to help protect a driver by absorbing the impact of a crash and keeping a vehicle from entering a dangerous area such as a steep drop off, tree area or where there are utility poles. However, hitting a guardrail for some drivers can result in a rollover and serious injuries or even death.

Guardrail Types

There are a variety of guardrail types, and they are intended to slow a motor vehicle down or deflect it back onto the road. Median strips are a type of guardrail and are designed to keep vehicles from going into opposing lanes of traffic. The type of guardrail seen along the outside edge of roads is usually the blocked-out w-beam. It is generally constructed of wooden posts and blockouts or steel posts that have blockouts made of plastic or wood. The height of a guardrail is important too. At the proper height, the guardrail is designed to keep a vehicle from vaulting over it on impact. Concrete barriers are another type of guardrail that has an additional advantage of adding soundproofing when roads pass by residential neighborhoods.

Dangers of Guardrails

According to statistics by the National Institutes of Health, 35,000 individuals were injured in 2005 from collisions with guardrails and 1,189 fatalities occurred. Thirty-two percent of the fatalities were motorcyclists, and 14 percent were occupants of light trucks and motor vehicles. According to crash tests conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, guardrails should absorb the energy of a crash in both head-on and angled impacts. However, crashworthiness tests are conducted with vehicles traveling at 62 mph. The report states that a guardrail may not function the way it should if a vehicle is traveling at a higher rate of speed when impact occurs. When a negligent driver causes another vehicle to hit the guardrail, resulting in the death of the driver or one of the passengers, this can be determined by an experienced lawyer to be a wrongful death.

Rollovers Caused by Striking a Guardrail

Any vehicle can experience a rollover when striking a guardrail, but there are certain types of vehicles more prone to rollovers than others. When a vehicle is narrower and taller such as an SUV, van or pickup, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these types of vehicles are more likely to experience a rollover when in an accident, even in a single-vehicle accident. Rollovers can cause a crushed roof in some vehicles, and such accidents result in a high number of fatalities due to traumatic brain injury.

Ways to Help Avoid Guardrail Accidents

  • Stay within the posted speed limit. Guardrails are designed for and have been tested to work properly under certain speeds. In addition, driving within the speed limit reduces your risk of a collision and seriousness of injuries you may incur in the event of a crash caused by speeding.
  • Use caution when driving around sharp curves. These are places where drivers often lose control of the vehicle, causing it to slide off the road and into a guardrail.
  • Driving drunk or when under the influence of drugs, even prescription drugs, adversely affects your driving ability. Being influenced by illicit or legal drugs while behind the wheel affects reaction time, clouds thinking and may result in a driver making poor decisions.
  • Wear a seat belt always, even if it is just to drive a short distance. A seat belt will help protect you from serious injury, whether you collide with a guardrail or in some other type of accident.
  • Avoid distracted driving such as texting or talking on a cell phone, changing the radio station or gazing off to the side of the road. Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents.
  • Use extra caution along rural roads. This is where 90 percent of fatalities occur from single-vehicle rollovers. Hitting a guardrail is not the only culprit in a rollover. Speeding along a rural road, distracted driving or taking a curve too quickly can cause the driver to lose control.

Attorney Ed Smith

Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer & Guardrail Accident Attorneys

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer. Please call me if you or a loved one have been hurt or killed in a car accident at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. I give free and friendly advice. 

I have practiced as an injury lawyer in Northern California for 35 years and have helped numerous families who have lost a loved one through a wrongful death in recovering fair compensation for their loss.

On Google, Yelp and Avvo, you can read the comments and reviews made by some of my former clients. The Verdicts and Settlements page at my website gives information on some previous cases and their resulting awards.

As a Million Dollar Advocates California member, I belong to a group of trial lawyers proven to have obtained compensation of million and/or multimillion dollar verdicts or settlements for clients.

Find out more about personal injuries at my website,

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