In 2015 there were over 35,000 motor vehicle deaths in the United States alone, many of which happened on median-divided highways. The barriers on either side are usually made of a mix of concrete and steel and are meant to stop cars from either entering oncoming lanes or from rollover hazards like cliffs.
In South Korea, a company named ETI has released a breakthrough technology called “rolling guardrails”, in which rollers are placed between flexible posts to guide a car back onto the road and prevent rollovers. It has drastically reduced damage done to vehicles and is almost unbreakable by even the heaviest impacts.
In the video below, the new guardrail is impacted by a regular-sized car, a large flatbed truck, and a full-sized passenger bus. Each one amazingly glances off the railing and is forced back into their lane with relatively little damage.
The amount of front-on damage that is avoided is incredible, and none (including the bus which is at least three times taller than the barrier) end up flipping. The barrier, which is flexible and bends on impact, seems mostly undamaged.
The guardrail is made of rotating barrels of ethylene-vinyl acetate, the same material used in many fishing rods, bicycle seats and boxing gloves which absorb much of the impact and direct the rest in a forward direction instead of back onto the vehicle. They also are extremely visible at night because of a natural luminescent and reflective quality.
Already installed in many roads in South Korea, these rolling guardrails would be a huge addition to North American highways to prevent both damage and injury. The few videos that are out there of the technology in work are fascinating.
It also seems as though the barrier itself would need to be replaced less frequently, lessening a burden on taxpayers across the country. While the implementation of it is not expected any time soon, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.