People make mistakes, but some mistakes break hearts.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) erroneously billed a teen nearly $3,000 for damages to the guardrail that killed her in a car crash last November. It spurred her father, Steven Eimers, to speak candidly about the government's urgent need to change the "defective device that killed her."
Early in the morning on Nov. 1, Hannah Eimers, 17, was driving on Interstate 75 North when her car traveled into the median and hit the end of the guardrail. Instead of deflecting the vehicle or absorbing its impact, the guardrail impaled the car, hitting Hannah in the head and chest and killing her instantly.
The car damaged 15-20 feet of the guardrail, and Hannah's father was billed $2,970 for the repair four months later.
"That was a mistake," said Mark Nagi, TDOT spokesperson. "It should never have happened. We'll take measures to ensure it never happens again."
However, while Nagi is referencing the insensitive billing of a dead girl, Hannah's father has his eye on something else: The guardrail that killed his daughter.
Hannah struck the model Lindsay X-LITE, a design that the transportation department had removed from its approved products list just one week before her accident. This means that the guardrail will no longer be used in future installations.
However, approximately 1,000 Lindsay X-LITE guardrails remain throughout Tennessee. The Lindsay X-LITE is supposed to "collapse like a telescope when hit on the end," but had a history of performing poorly at speeds above 60 mph. The speed limit along the stretch of road where Hannah died was 70 mph.
Two months prior, the Virginia Department of Transportation removed the Lindsay X-LITE model from its approved product list due to its poor performance during crash tests performed by an independent contractor. VDOT's impetus was Joshua Harman, who won a $663 million settlement against Trinity Industries. He reported that the company altered a guardrail model without first getting approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
Eimers will push for Tennessee to follow Virginia's example and replace all the faulty guardrail models with ones that serve drivers rather than kill them.
"What bothers me is that they're playing Russian roulette with people's lives," he said. "They know these devices do not perform at high speeds and in situations like my daughter's accident, but they leave them in place."
Banner/thumbnail credit: Youtube Screenshot, NCDOTcommunications