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Tim Corbin

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The “Decade of Action” for Road Safety must also be a “Decade of Change”

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2012

(Alexandria, VA) – In a new policy statement, the International Road Federation Washington is calling for the formal prohibition of deadly forms of guardrail terminal treatments, including “fishtails”, “spoons” and turned-down ends, whose continued presence is responsible for unnecessary deaths and injuries across the world.

The policy statement notes that road authorities and safety specialists worldwide recognize that the most dangerous part of a longitudinal barrier can be its end. Serious studies all conclude that turned-down guardrail ends, a measure introduced in the 1960s, dramatically increase the chances of vehicles rolling over or vaulting into the roadside obstacle the guardrail was designed to shield against. The highway safety community has responded to this engineering challenge through continuous investment in innovation over the past fifty years. The resulting “crashworthy” terminals commercially available today reduce vehicle decelerations and avoid ramping, rolling, or pitching, and in many cases avert serious injuries and death.

According to Mike Dreznes, IRF executive vice president and TRB Roadside Safety Design Subcommittee on International Research Activities co-chair: “The continued presence of obsolete forms of terminals should be a concern to road authorities everywhere. Too often design engineers simply look at the previous project and use the same drawings for the new project, sometimes with disastrous consequences for road users”.

IRF has proposed for the implementation of a three-step program to eradicate blunt and turned-down ends:

  1. Install only crashworthy Terminals that have met NCHRP 350/MASH or EN 1317 testing criteria
  2. Treat blunt and turned-down ends as roadside hazards in national Road Safety Audit Guidelines
  3. Adopt long term phase-out programs for all obsolete terminals, including their replacement during major pavement or guardrail repair projects.

The United Nations’ Decade of Action for Road Safety must be a “Decade of Change” as road authorities and design engineers recognize the new technologies that are available and start using them on a large scale.

Download the policy here.


Founded in 1948, the International Road Federation (IRF) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization with members from both the public and private sectors in 90 countries worldwide. IRF promotes the development and maintenance of better, safer roads and road networks throughout the world, using technological solutions and management practices that provide maximum economic and social returns from road investment.

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