The Virginia Department of Transportation said it will remove hundreds of controversial guardrails from its roads.
Five lawsuits have been filed against Lindsay Transportation Solutions claiming its X-LITE guardrail end terminal is defective. At least seven people have died after the guardrail speared their vehicles during crashes.
One of those deaths happened on I-66 in Fauquier County. Sarah Weinberg of Alexandria was driving to her parents’ Tennessee home for Christmas in 2016 when she ran off the road and hit an X-LITE. VDOT confirmed to News4 that it is one of three piercings in the state. No one died in the other two crashes.
VDOT removed the X-LITE from its approved products list in 2016. It is now replacing the less than 500 X-LITES that are installed on roads with a speed limit of 55 mph or more.
“We do not have evidence of any issues or penetrations with X-LITE or other terminals on roadways where speeds are under 55 mph and we do not plan to replace terminals in these areas under our tiered replacement plan," VDOT Assistant Director of Communications Marshall Herman told News4. "If we find problems with any terminals on roadways with lower speeds, we will adjust our replacement plan.”
Herman said about 280 X-LITES will be replaced this year, with the remaining ones replaced in 2019.
Steve Eimers is one of the five people who have filed lawsuits against Lindsay Transportation Solutions. His 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, was killed in 2016 when an X-LITE pierced her vehicle. Several states have removed the X-LITE from their approved products lists after meeting with Eimers. Many of the states are also actively removing X-LITES that were already installed.
Still, hundreds of the guardrail end terminals remain on roads across the country. Eimers is calling on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to issue a national recall of the Lindsay X-LITE.
In a statement to News4, the FHWA said:
“Safety is the top priority of the Federal Highway Administration, and we remain committed to reducing fatalities on our nation’s roads. No family should suffer like the Eimers family has. Beginning in 2018, federal-aid reimbursement for roadside guardrails will be contingent on these devices meeting the most recent safety criteria developed by all state departments of transportation. FHWA also continues to monitor and report online the progress states are making in transitioning to the latest crash test criteria for guardrails."
Lindsay Transportation Solutions sent the following statement to News4:
“Lindsay Transportation Solutions’ top priority is to provide solutions that reduce the number and severity of injuries sustained in automobile accidents.
“X-LITE has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with Federal standards and criteria, and remains eligible for Federal transportation funding. There is no road safety equipment that can prevent injury every time a driver fails to stay on the road, but X-Lite has reduced the number and severity of injuries sustained in automobile accidents. A variety of factors contribute to the potential for injury when a driver fails to stay on the road, including speed, the angle at which a vehicle makes impact, and whether road safety equipment is installed and maintained properly.
“We encourage you to visit https://xlitefacts.com/about/ to learn more about X-LITE. Thank you.”