‘It needs to come off our highways’; East Tennessee father takes guardrail campaign to D.C.

"I'm here today because I have 9 living kids, these devices are still out there and my daughter is safe. I believe my daughter is in heaven. We're not because those devices are still on the roadway," said Stephen Elmers.
Hannah Eimers (Source: Family via WATE)

ALCOA (WATE) – An East Tennessee father says he’s surprised that he was invited to a one-on-one meeting on Wednesday with transportation regulators in Washington, DC. It’s the latest step in his campaign aimed at a specific type of guardrail end terminal involved in deadly crashes.

One crash in November claimed the life of Hannah Eimers, 17. Her car went off the roadway on Interstate 75 in McMinn County, hitting a guardrail that pushed Hannah into the backseat. Her father, Stephen Eimers, was sent a bill by mistake for $3,000 to replace the guardrail.

He hand-delivered a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, from him and four other families affected by the X-Lite guardrail end terminals. Eimers figured security would just take the letter and hand it off, but that’s not the case.

“I’m here today because I have 9 living kids, these devices are still out there and my daughter is safe. I believe my daughter is in heaven. We’re not because those devices are still on the roadway,” he said.

Previous story: ‘Open your eyes,’ Lenoir City father urges Tennessee lawmakers to make changes to guardrails

Eimers boarded a flight to Washington on Tuesday, with the letter in hand on Tuesday.

“I’m here today because I have 9 living kids, these devices are still out there and my daughter is safe. I believe my daughter is in heaven. We’re not because those devices are still on the roadway,” said Stephen Elmers.

“We have the math on our side, we have the science on our side, we have the engineering letter from TDOT on our side, and we have the facts on our side,” said Elmers. “We’re calling on the Federal Highway Administration, for the first time in their history, to rescind a letter of approval. The Lindsay X-Lite is extraordinarily dangerous and it needs to come off our highways.”

If the letter of approval is rescinded, it would remove X-Lite’s safety eligibility status. The families want the equipment gone nationwide. It’s already happening in Tennessee over the coming weeks.

“We have the evidence on our side, but ultimately I am just one David fighting a pretty big Goliath,” Eimers said. “I’m not an engineer, I’m not a safety person. I’m just a guy from rural east Tennessee with 10 kids, one of them in heaven because of a horrible product failure.”

Eimers also wants a look at every aspect of traffic safety.

“I have to be able to look at that next person that finds themselves where we are and say I tried,” he said.

He hopes his letter is taken seriously.

“I lost my oldest daughter. Malcolm lost his dad. That’s a steep, steep price to be invited,” Eimers said.

The meeting ended around 2:30 p.m. Tennessee representatives were there. Elmers hope national leaders listen.

“I hope we got their attention. If we didn’t I’m sure the senators and congressman will get their attention,” said Elmers.

Once Eimers gets back home to Knoxville, he says his work is not done. The family plans to set up a foundation in Hannah’s honor. It’ll help children that she held very close to her heart who don’t have parents or are born with Down syndrome.

Lindsay Transportation Solutions, maker of the X-Lite end terminals, issued another statement on Wednesday saying:

Safety is Lindsay Transportation Solutions’ number one priority.  The X-Lite End Terminal has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with FHWA standards and criteria, and remains qualified for use on America’s roadways. As experts such as FHWA have pointed out, there are impact conditions that exceed the performance expectations of all road safety equipment, and the equipment’s inability to singly prevent every tragedy does not indicate a flaw or defect. While federal crash testing is intended to assess a variety of conditions, no test can replicate every possible scenario.

The transportation safety community has long recognized that a variety of factors, including whether road safety equipment is installed and maintained in accordance with the AASHTO Roadside Design Guide, can affect the severity of an impact. Representatives from Lindsay Transportation Solutions recently spoke with FHWA and AASHTO personnel to discuss matters recently raised by the Tennessee Department of Transportation regarding the NCHRP350-eligible X-LITE End Terminal.  The purpose of our call with FHWA and AASHTO was to inform them that we are continuing our thorough evaluation of field incidents and coordinating efforts with a number of state DOTs and others in the transportation safety community. In recognition of the fact that federal crash testing does not replicate every possible scenario and factor, this evaluation considers impact data as well as pre-impact conditions including installation, maintenance, and roadside conditions of the end terminal.

We would also like to provide the news media and others with a better understanding of how the X‑Lite product was tested. FHWA is a federal agency which does not test products on its own. A crash test laboratory collects performance data on products tested at the lab, and the lab submits results to FHWA along with an application for eligibility so that FHWA can conduct its evaluation. 

Under these federal standards, the X-Lite product was qualified for use by FHWA. While Safe Technologies, Inc. is a wholly‑owned subsidiary of Lindsay Transportation Solutions, it is fully accredited to ISO 17025 (an accreditation which requires regular independent ISO audits) and recognized by FHWA to perform full‑scale crash tests. The fact that the lab is a wholly-owned subsidiary is no secret; Lindsay Corporation has regularly shared this with the public in press releases and annual reports dating back to its acquisition of the lab, and it has also regularly disclosed its ownership of the lab to FHWA.

Finally, and most important, the thoughts and prayers of all Lindsay staff are with Mr. Eimers and those affected by tragic accidents.

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