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Guide to Guide Rails

Posted on March 26th, 2021

guardrail around parking lot

To put it simply, a guard rail is a safety barrier that is used to shield a driver that has left the roadway since, in many cases, the consequences of hitting the guard rail are less severe than hitting the objects beyond the guard rail.

What is the Purpose of a Guardrail?

If a driver is veering off of the road, the best thing that can happen for the car to come to a stop unrestricted. However, this is not possible with all roadways. Some roadways have utility poles on either side, steep embankments or slopes, retaining walls, and trees that the vehicle could make contact with.

Hitting a guard rail has fewer consequences, in most cases, than striking objects along the roadway, which is why a guard rail is installed or should be installed. Their purpose is to help guide the vehicle back onto the roadway, make crashes less severe, and can also help slow the vehicle to a complete stop or slow it down.

There are countless situations drivers may find themselves in, so it is impossible to say that guard rails can protect against every situation. The speed and size of the vehicle also come into play when it comes to the performance of the guardrail. When guardrails are installed, transportation engineers carefully determine the placement. This helps to protect drivers in most conditions.

What is the Function of a Guardrail?

A guardrail functions as an entire system that includes the posts, the guardrail, the connection of the posts, the end terminal, the anchoring system, and the soil the posts are installed in. These elements all influence how well the guardrail will function when an impact occurs.

The two key components of the guardrail system are the guardrail face and the end terminal:

Guardrail face – This is the length of the guardrail that extends from the end terminal along the side of the road. This component functions to guide the vehicle back onto the road.

End Terminal – Where the guardrail begins is called the end treatment. An exposed end of the guardrail will typically be outfitted with an energy-absorbing end treatment designed to absorb the energy of the impact. This end treatment works by having the impact head slide down the length of the guardrail, flattening and redirecting the guardrail away from the vehicle until it has come to a stop.

Type of Guard Rails

There are a variety of guardrails for different applications. There are a variety of guide rails, including:

W-beams – These are standard highway and traffic safety rails. These rails are made from high gauge steel and are coated to withstand the elements.

Bolt-on – These can be installed in single, double, or triple rails depending on your application needs.

Drop-in – These types of guide rails are easy to access and feature brackets that allow the post section to slide into the structure for simple installation.

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