A major change to roads across the state is being hailed as a bittersweet victory by one Tennessee father.
"I don't want anyone else to experience this loss," said Stephen Eimers of Loudon County. "It's your worst nightmare. I woke up this morning, and I'm still the father of a dead child."
Eimers has spent the past year-and-a-half fighting in the memory of his 17-year-old daughter, Hannah.
Hannah loved photography. She was one of 10 children, six adopted.
In November 2016, Hannah was traveling on a Tennessee highway when she hit a guardrail that speared through her car and killed her.
"I know, if I keep silent at this point, another family will experience the same loss I've experienced," Eimers said.
Eimers is pushing for a national recall of X-LITE Guardrails by Lindsay Corporation.
Citing safety concerns, the TN Department of Transportation has removed nearly 1,951 of the guardrails in the past year.
According to a spokesperson for TDOT, there are a little more than 30 of the guardrails left across the state, and all of them have been replaced in Middle and West Tennessee.
The remaining X-LITE guardrails in East Tennessee are scheduled for removal by the end of July.
"It's a very decisive victory to see this action taken, so I'm very pleased," Eimers said. "I know families in the State of Tennessee will never share in the horror that our family, and several other families across the nation, has experienced."
A representative for Lindsay Transportation Solutions sent in a statement saying;
“The X-LITE end terminal has saved lives and reduced the number and severity of injuries sustained from automobile accidents. Publicly available performance data that is reported monthly to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) demonstrates that the X-LITE performs as well as or better than similar products on the market and numerous states that use the X-LITE on their roads have confirmed that they’ve had no negative experiences. In 2011, the FHWA issued a Safety Eligibility Letter reporting that the X-LITE passed all applicable standards and criteria. In 2017, the FHWA re-confirmed that finding in response to a request that the agency reexamines the X-LITE. It is important to note that road safety equipment continues to evolve with the advancement of new technology and to account for design changes in both our automobiles and highways. As such, in 2015, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) along with FHWA announced the schedule for implementing the fifth generation of road safety equipment, such as guardrail end terminals, on the National Highway System that meets new crash-testing standards. Those standards have already started to go into effect and some states have been transitioning to the new standard ahead of the sunset dates.”
Speaking on the replacement of the guardrails, a representative for TDOT said:
"In 2016, TDOT expressed concerns regarding X-LITE terminals in relation to two crashes that resulted in three fatalities where the guardrail penetrated the vehicle cabin. TDOT attempted to work with Lindsay, but was unable to resolve the matter. On October 25, 2016, the X-LITE (TX) terminal was removed from TDOT’s QPL. Contracts to remove and replace the installed X-LITE (TX) terminals from the state highway system were part of the state’s March 2017 bid letting. The awarded contracts have been/are being executed now."
Eimers said, though the X-LITE guardrails will soon be gone from Tennessee, his fight will continue for Hannah.
"She was just a very special girl," he said. "I think she would be proud."
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