Federal government looks into controversial guardrail device installed on roads across the country

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- New crash tests start next week on a controversial guardrail device. It is already installed on roads across the country. The Federal Highway Administration estimates there are more than 200,000 of the devices, including an unknown number in Wisconsin.

In October, a federal jury in Texas found that Trinity Highway Products defrauded the government by failing to disclose design changes to its ET-Plus guardrail end terminals -- one of two guardrail energy absorbing devices approved for use on Wisconsin highways.

A federal whistleblower from Virginia has been saying for at least two years that the modified guardrail devices are failing and causing serious injuries and deaths across the country. But it wasn't until last month that a jury found the makers of the device liable for misleading the government.

Now, the Federal Highway Administration says it has approved a plan for a new round of crash tests to confirm the devices are safe.

"This is just the latest in a series of federal highway efforts to ensure the ET-Plus is safe and meets crash test criteria," Gregory Nadeau with the Federal Highway Administration told FOX6 News over the phone.

The ET-Plus was previously crash tested in 2005 and again in 2010 -- but the plaintiff in the Texas lawsuit accused the company of testing the wrong device.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced last week it is suspending new installations of the ET-Plus until the latest round of crash tests are complete.

In the meantime, thousands of these devices remain on Wisconsin roads.

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