Federal officials watch first crash test of guardrails that were taken off the market

Associated Press

Federal and state officials on Wednesday watched the first in a series of crash tests on highway guardrails that were recently taken off the market, although thousands still line the nation's highways.

The guardrail performed as expected by giving way when hit at an angle by a pickup at a testing center in San Antonio, Texas, said Tony Furst, an associate administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

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No decision will be made on the guardrails until several more tests are done by early next year, Furst told reporters.

The guardrails are made by Trinity Industries Inc. Critics say that a 2005 change in design turned the ends of the guardrails into spears that could impale vehicles.

Trinity stopped selling the guardrails in October after a Texas jury ruled that the Dallas company should pay at least $175 million for failing to tell regulators about the change. Some states had already stopped installing them.

The tests will determine whether rails made after the design change meet standards allowing states to be reimbursed by the federal government for installing them. But critics including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, complain that the tests will use 2005 safety standards instead of updates that took effect in 2011.

Trinity spokesman Jeff Eller said, "These are data-driven tests. All the data must be collected and analyzed before any conclusions can be reached."

Trinity shares fell $1.89, or 6.3 percent, to close at $27.92. They have lost 45 percent of their value since mid-September, amid growing media scrutiny of the guardrails.