Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said any further action to be taken about a controversial guardrail is being researched by the Department of Transportation.
The family of an 18-year-old Marine killed in a car accident on his way to work is calling on Maryland to remove the controversial guardrail involved in the crash.
Michael Carter Jr. was just starting his career in the Marines when on the morning of Feb. 7, he was driving to the recruiting office where he worked on Maryland’s eastern shore and — for unknown reasons — he swerved off the road and crashed into the end of a guardrail and didn't survive.
"A senseless crash, and I’d lost something that was close to me,” said his mother, Sandra Johnson-Carter. “Because he was like my right arm. I did everything with him or for him all his life."
While Carter's family planned a memorial service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery, his mother couldn't stop thinking about the accident. She searched “death by guardrail” online.
"Then I just started reading more and getting more information and come to find out that he was not the only person that had been killed by hitting an X-LITE end terminal," she said.
At least seven other people have died after crashing into X-LITE guardrail end pieces.
Five lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer, Lindsay Transportation Solutions, claiming the X-LITE is defective — in some cases spearing vehicles instead of deflecting them.
Maryland State Police and the State Highway Administration are still investigating Carter's crash, and have not determined whether the X-LITE was at fault. Photos from the accident scene show the guardrail was ripped off.
"Right now, we have no information that indicates it did pierce the vehicle, so that's the whole idea of waiting for the reconstruction report," said John Schofield of the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Carter's mother wrote a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and other state officials urging them to remove the more than 900 X-LITES already installed on Maryland's roads.
“I did get the letter and personally read the letter and was moved by the letter from the mom talking about her son,” Hogan said.
The X-LITE is no longer being installed as states move to products that meet updated crash-test standards, but thousands of the guardrail end pieces are already in place across the country.
“About 2 percent of the guardrails in Maryland are these types of guardrails, and the state transportation department has already made the decision not to do anymore of these,” Hogan said.
At least 10 states are currently replacing X-LITES — some due to safety concerns and others as part of an effort to update all roadside barriers to products that meet new crash-test standards.
Hogan said Maryland has never had case where the guardrail was found to be the cause of death or serious injury.
"But in spite of that, in an overabundance of caution, we’ve stopped using them, and if any further action is to be taken, the Department of Transportation is researching it right now,” he said.
In a statement to News4, Lindsay Transportation Solutions said:
“Lindsay Transportation Solutions builds road safety equipment that reduces risks for drivers on America’s roads. Lindsay proactively offers a variety of training resources to help states and contractors with proper hardware installation and maintenance, such as road safety tours, a mobile app available in four languages, and onsite training. While X-LITE has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with Federal standards, there is no road safety equipment that can prevent injury every time a driver fails to stay on the road. When properly installed and maintained, roadside hardware like X-LITE will reduce the number and severity of injuries sustained in car accidents. Lindsay continues to work collaboratively with road safety stakeholders on national initiatives to enhance safety on America’s roadways.”