Maryland transportation officials announced a plan to replace hundreds of guardrail end caps at the center of a News4 consumer investigation.
A number of lawsuits claim the X-LITE end terminal is defective. Several people have died and others have been seriously injured after the guardrail speared their vehicles.
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration said as part of a project to upgrade guardrails to products that meet new, stricter crash test standards, it will target replacing about 900 X-LITEs first. Those standards, known as MASH, went into effect July 1.
Other states, including Virginia and Texas, are in the middle of similar efforts to replace non-MASH compliant roadside hardware. Maryland SHA said its decision is an engineering-based one, and it is not aware of any accidents in Maryland where an X-LITE did not function properly.
Maryland Marine Killed in X-LITE Crash
The announcement from Maryland comes on the same day that SHA Administrator Greg Slater met with the family of a Marine who died after crashing into an X-LITE.
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Pfc. Michael Carter Jr., 18, was driving northbound on Route 13 in Princess Anne shortly before 8 a.m. Feb. 7 when the accident happened. He was on his way to work at the Marine Corps recruiting office in Salisbury.
Lindsay Transportation Solutions, the maker of the X-LITE says:
“We extend our deep sympathies to the family of Pfc. Michael Carter Jr. We continue to work with all stakeholders of the road safety ecosystem in an effort to reduce fatalities on America’s roads. It is our understanding from the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) that the X-LITE was not responsible for this young man’s death.
“We respect the thoughtful and diligent efforts of the Maryland State Highway Administration in proactively moving toward the new MASH standard and replacing all products from all guardrail end terminal manufacturers that have not been tested to this new standard.”
The Maryland SHA reviewed the reconstruction report from Maryland State Police and said they could not determine whether or not the guardrail functioned properly in Carter’s crash. They said the end piece of the guardrail hit the driver’s side door, which could not withstand the impact.
Here are some of the findings of that report:
- Carter was driving approximately 64 mph in a 55 mph zone.
- Carter was wearing a seat belt.
- Carter did not have any alcohol or drugs in his system. Witness statements indicate he may have been drowsy at the time.
- Carter drifted off the left side of the road, was alerted by the rumble strips on the shoulder, and overcorrected to the right.
- Carter’s car began turning in a clockwise rotation and was traveling approximately 42 mph when it impacted the end cap of the guardrail.
- The guardrail head crushed the driver’s side door and “entered the vehicle based on the metal scratch marks on the steering wheel and the bending of the steering wheel.”
- The medical examiner says Carter died of “multiple injuries sustained (as) a driver of a motor vehicle that left the roadway and struck a fixed object.”
A Mother's Mission
Sandra Johnson-Carter joined forces with another grieving parent who is fighting for a national recall of the X-LITE.
Steve Eimers’ 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, died in 2016 after hitting an X-LITE in Tennessee.
"A guardrail pierced her car and she was killed instantly," he said.
Earlier this year, Johnson-Carter joined Eimers in Tennessee to testify in front of the state legislature. Lawmakers ultimately passed a joint resolution calling for a national recall of the X-LITE. Tennessee’s governor signed HJR 1001 in May.
"Our research, and repeated calls for information from the states, do not support claims that this specific type of guardrail performs differently than others," the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) said in a statement.
Lindsay Transportation Solutions said, "It is concerning that Tennessee legislators have used their position to spread fear about a road safety product that has reduced the number and severity of injuries sustained in automobile accidents. Lindsay Transportation Solutions would have welcomed the opportunity to share the facts with the Tennessee General Assembly, but we were never invited or contacted."
Tennessee Congressman John Duncan, vice chairman of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, is asking the FHWA to review accidents involving the X-LITE. News4 obtained a letter he sent to the acting administrator last month. “I believe the concerns and recommendation in HJR 1001 warrant very serious consideration by DOT / FHWA,” Duncan wrote. The congressman requested a report with details about accidents in which the X-LITE guardrail pierced vehicles.
Honoring a Hero
Pfc. Carter was recognized by the lieutenant governor of Tennessee.
After testifying in front of Tennessee lawmakers, Sandra-Johnson Carter received a proclamation from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who also serves as speaker of the Senate. The proclamation honors the life of PFC Carter and recognizes him as an American hero.
Carter’s family said the young Marine was honest, caring, loving, humble and hardworking. After completing basic training in October 2017 and combat training in November 2017, Carter volunteered with the U.S. Military Outreach Judo & Jiu-Jitsu Organization, Inc. while waiting for a spot in logistics training. He was awarded two certificates of appreciation for his volunteer work in December 2017.
In January, he was granted special permission to return home to Princess Anne to work as a recruiter’s assistant while he continued to wait for a spot in logistics class. He moved back just two weeks before the crash that took his life.