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A crash attenuator is a safety device intended to reduce the damage to structures, vehicles and motorists when a vehicle leaves the roadway. The attenuator system typically connects to the end of a guard rail at the edge of the roadway shoulder. Crash attenuators are designed to absorb a colliding vehicle’s energy and safely redirect the vehicle. A typical crash attenuator system is 50 feet long. This particular system has a narrow front face with a chute that resembles an elephant trunk. In crashes affecting the front of a vehicle, the system lessens the vehicle’s energy and brings it to a stop.

Crash attenuator illustration

Illustration: Crash Attenuator

Crash attenuator photo

Photograph: Crash Attenuator

A. This narrow crash attenuator impact head guides traffic to the roadway side. In crashes affecting the front of a vehicle, the attenuator’s impact head moves backward and the system flattens so the anchor rail can reduce the energy of the vehicle and bring it to a stop.

B. The anchor rail of the system safely redirects the impacting vehicle when hit at the third post and beyond.