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Why dangerous guardrails banned from Georgia highways are still on local roads

Taylor Brock nearly lost his foot after hitting a blunt end guardrail in Milton.

MILTON, Ga. — Blunt-end guardrails are dangerous. We've known that for decades. But, they are still on Georgia roads, and if you hit one, it could pierce through your car.

Taylor Brock knows all too well.

"In my left foot, I have two screws. My right foot I have 15 or 16 screws and I have two metal bars," Brock said describing his injuries. "They’re holding my leg where it should be. I’m missing a chunk of bone."

Brock traveled down Bethany Road in Milton going barely 20 miles per hour, when he hydroplaned into a guardrail. 

"The guardrail came into the vehicle, and it hit my seat and pushed my seat to the back of my car. The back seat," he told 11Alive Investigates

The guardrail sliced through his Toyota SUV, leaving him with serious injuries that would end up costing more than $300,000 in medical bills. It nearly cost him his foot. 

"If I was going any faster, it would have went through me," Brock said. 

'You can have a serious wreck'

You can hear the shock of first responders in bodycam video obtained by 11Alive investigators through an open records request. 

RELATED: GDOT launching statewide guardrail inspection following 11Alive investigation

"That's incredible," one firefighter is heard saying. "I've never seen a guardrail go through like that."

"His foot is fully broken. Just on by skin. Holding on by skin," another detailed.

Credit: WXIA

Their shock is not shared by Dean Sicking. 

"With speeds as low as 30 miles an hour, you can have a serious wreck," he said.

RELATED: 'It can be deadly' | Faulty 'Frankensteined' guardrails found on Georgia roads.

Sicking is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He's an expert on guardrails. He explained that Brock hit a blunt-end guardrail. One he said doesn't belong on any road.  

Why are blunt-end guardrails still on the road?

In 1994, the Federal Highway Administration urged every state to replace blunt-end guardrails because they were spearing cars. That directive only applied to highways and state roads and did not include county or municipal roads. 

Bethany Road, where Brock was, is a municipal road. The City of Milton gets to decide what's fit for its roads. The problem with that? No one in Milton is a guardrail expert. 

Credit: WXIA

"That’s not an item that we have specific knowledge of," Public Works Director Sara Leaders said. 

Leaders said she didn't know these types of guardrails were no longer allowed on state roads and were deemed unsafe. 

RELATED: 'It cuts people in half' | Potentially dangerous guardrails being removed in Georgia following 11Alive investigation

And she had no reason to believe the guardrail Brock hit was a hazard. Georgia's Department of Transportation inspected that exact rail every other year since at least 2006, according to documents obtained by 11Alive. 

In GDOT's reports to Milton, it never said the guardrail should be removed or replaced. Meanwhile, GDOT said it couldn't do that.

GDOT told 11Alive, “GDOT does not have the authority to make requirements to locals on the design, construction or maintenance on this facility."

RELATED: Parents criticize Georgia's limit on death compensation after daughter killed in crash

According to the GDOT inspection reports, inspectors rated the guardrail a 0. That means it's not up to safety standards for highways. But because Bethany Road is not a highway, the rating didn't raise any concerns. 

Next steps in Milton

After Brock's crash, the City of Milton repaired the guardrail he hit and added a flared end. But unfortunately, that's not any better than the blunt-end that was there before. 

Credit: WXIA

Sicking said it's similar, and with a speed limit of 40 mph on Bethany Road, if someone hits it, he said the guardrail could once again spear their car. 

"That’s awful," Brock said.

As a result of our investigation, Milton said it plans to remove all the blunt-end and other potentially dangerous guardrails in their city. 

The change comes too late for Brock, but he hopes his story serves as a warning to other cities in Georgia to seek out and replace these guardrails even if the state doesn't require them to.

 

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