A highway guardrail serves the function of improving road safety conditions. Although this is the main purpose, it is also imperative to only install it where absolutely necessary, as will become clear in this article. Apart from choosing the right area for installation, it is crucial to choose guardrail suppliers adhering to strict quality, safety and manufacturing standards, for which the reasons are explained in this article.

With thousands of road users dying every year as a result of accidents, every step that can be taken to improve road safety is important. Suppliers of road safety products understand how important it is to design, develop and manufacture products relevant to the specific road conditions where to be used and to provide easy-to-follow installation guidelines for products such as guardrails. However, these barriers are not only installed on highways, but also in urban areas. Furthermore, the devices serve to improve road safety as can be seen below.

In this article we look at the following:

  • What is a guardrail?
  • Functions of road barriers.
  • Where these road safety products are installed.
  • When is it better not to install these products?
  • Which suppliers to choose.

What is a guardrail?

It is a type of road safety device to help reduce the severity of impact on vehicle occupants and to protect people against hazards behind the structures. These also protect people against impact from straying vehicles.

A guardrail consists of the following components:

  • W-beam steel panels.
  • Wooden or steel posts to which the panels are attached.
  • Attachment components.
  • D- or V-shaped delineators attached to the panels to make the barriers highly visible.
  • End-terminal in the form of a bull-nose shape or the standard shape to prevent the panel from impaling a vehicle that collides with the end of guardrail.

Suppliers differ in their designs and the materials they use, but in most instances, guardrails feature similar design lines. Download the guardrail brochure for detailed information on the components in the barrier structure.

Functions of guardrails

These barriers are often called traffic or highway barriers. As the name suggests, the devices function as a safeguard against hazards. Their functions are numerous and include:

  • Prevent straying vehicles from leaving the safety of the demarcated road surface and venturing into a hazardous area, into oncoming traffic, into a person, over the side of a mountain, into a tree, into a water source or over the side of a bridge, or into a wall.
  • Redirect straying vehicles back to their original path of travel upon side impact through deflection.
  • Absorb part or most of the impact energy of a vehicle collision with it and dispersing the impact energy throughout the system, thereby reducing the impact of the collision on the vehicle and its occupants.
  • Prevent a straying vehicle from becoming air-borne upon collision with the barrier at high speed.
  • Improve driver confidence as a barrier provides protection against accidental moving off the safe travel path.
  • Reduce median clustering at night related to the fear of venturing off the left edge of the road, thereby helping to reduce the risk of head-on collisions associated with median clustering.
  • Protect people in pedestrian demarcated areas against straying vehicles.
  • Prevent collision with walls on the on-ramps in multi-storey parking lots.
  • Minimise the risk of accidents from one freeway spilling over into another freeway.
  • Keep motorists from making U-turns into oncoming traffic of opposite flowing freeways.

From the many functions that the structures must perform, one can see why these road safety devices are installed. This is also one of the reasons to only buy guardrails from trusted suppliers, who ensure that every component of the barrier system meets quality and durability requirements.

Guardrail Installation locations

These road safety barriers are installed in the following locations:

  • In urban areas where there is a risk of vehicles venturing into pedestrian areas by accident or on purpose.
  • As boundaries to bridges.
  • Roads crossing water sources.
  • Median between two highways.
  • At bends in the road.
  • Mountain passes.
  • In tunnels to create a safe walk space for pedestrians and to prevent vehicles from hitting the walls during accidents.

When not to install a guardrail

Guardrails are also objects. Although the aim is to protect motorists from colliding with unforgiving objects when the vehicles stray from the demarcated safe travel path, the barriers are also hazards. As such, wherever it is possible for a vehicle to return to the safety of the road through corrective action from the driver without hitting an object or venturing into a hazardous area, it is better not to install any type of hazard. To this end, road engineers carefully consider the installation areas and can follow guidelines from suppliers regarding the most appropriate applications.

Enough space should be available to allow for proper installation and footing of the barriers. If not, another type of road safety barrier, such as a wire-rope fence, may be a better option. In addition, these types of barriers should not be installed where it is difficult to maintain the structures without increasing the risk of accidents and injuries to road maintenance workers.

Choosing the right guardrail suppliers

Choose a local manufacturer known for the production of high-quality road safety and steel products. Choose one of the South African suppliers for the following reasons:

  • A local supplier is familiar with the South African road conditions and requirements of the Department of Transport.
  • The products are tested according to SABS/SANS and international standards.
  • Prices are competitive
  • Support for the South African economy.

What to look for in guardrail suppliers

The perfect supply company has a long history of product and service excellence. In addition, the firm has an international footprint, giving them the ability to source experts from countries such as Germany. The company provides finishing options such as galvanised or uncoated for the steel panels. Choose a supplier able to provide related road safety products, such as:

  • Road cones
  • Water-filled barriers
  • Speed bumps
  • Wire rope fences
  • Delineators
  • End-terminals
  • Attenuators

The supply company must offer standard lengths and have the ability to supply beam sections in lengths according to client requirements. They must provide guidelines for installation and have the technical expertise to give support with installation.

Final thoughts

Guardrails are essential structures in the quest for safer road conditions. Choosing the right product, installation location and suppliers is important to ensure these barriers perform as intended. Interested in learning more? Get more information on guardrails as available from us.