TDOT plans to remove some guardrails after concerns with performance

The family of a Lenoir City teen killed in a crash involving guardrails pushes for change

LENOIR CITY (WATE) – A Loudon County family is hoping their heartbreak saves another life.

Hannah Eimers was killed along Interstate 75 in McMinn County in November. Her car hit a guardrail and months later Tennessee Department of Transportation mistakenly sent her family a nearly $3,000 bill. TDOT says that was in error and they greatly apologize for the mistake, adding that the family does not have to pay.

Hannah Eimers (source: family)

“I should be here simply to tell you about Hannah, not about her death,” said Hannah Eimers’ father, Stephen Eimers. “It is not normal for a guardrail terminal end to penetrate the vehicle.”

Previous story: TDOT sends $3,000 bill for guardrail that killed Lenoir City teen

The type of guardrail system that was involved in the crash was an X-Lite guardrail end terminal. Stephen Eimers said he believes the guardrail killed his daughter.

Six days before Hannah Eimers’ death, TDOT stopped buying the type of guardrail. They removed the guardrail system from their Qualified Product List because there were concerns about its performance, specifically issues associated with the telescoping W-beam, slider assembly friction reduction type system.

On Thursday, TDOT said that system was only removed when damaged, but on Friday, a TDOT spokesperson said they plan to start the process of removing those guardrails across the state. A TDOT spokesperson says in the fall an analysis was done on the X-Lite system. They used crash data and included the number of fatalities.

Following that, TDOT says they made the decision to remove X-Lite guardrails in areas of higher speeds, more than 45 miles per hour. There are approximately 1,000 of those guardrails across the state, according to TDOT.

Stephen Eimers is also meeting with lawmakers.

Tennessee State Representative Jason Zachary

“So that way we can sit in a room and have a conversation. He can express his concerns, TDOT can hear those concerns directly from him and we can chart a path forward to reach the resolution that Mr. Eimers is ultimately wanting,” said State Representative Jason Zachary.

There is a contract bid for the end of March allowing guardrail replacement and the X-Lite system falls into that category. TDOT says drivers should see those terminals removed in late spring, early summer of this year.

“We need to be diligent about making sure that whatever is on the road, whether it has anything to do with TDOT or not, whatever department it may be, is the safest possible device that’s out there,” added Rep. Zachary.

WATE 6 On Your Side has sent multiple requests to X-Lite guardrail system, but have not received a response.

The Eimers family also spoke with Congressman Duncan. The office said they are requesting more information from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration.

Knox County Highway Department said they are following the same protocol as TDOT when it comes to removing the guardrail end terminals.

There is another end terminal that is also not on TDOT’s Qualified Product List. It is the ET Plus system.

It was taken off in 2014 after the Federal Government told the company more crash testing was needed. Currently, there are 21,094 ET Plus terminals installed across Tennessee.

Trinity Industries, the manufacturer of the ET Plus system, says crash testing was completed in 2015. The Federal Highway Administration was present at all eight tests and Trinity Industries says the ET Plus system passed all of those tests, which were done by an independent research facility.

Jeff Eller, a spokesperson with Trinity Industries said, “When properly installed and maintained, the ET Plus system works as designed. As the Federal Highway Administration has repeatedly reconfirmed, the ET Plus system meets the applicable safety performance criteria and is eligible to be used in all 50 states.”

 

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