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, car drifted into the median and collided with the end of the guardrail. "Instead of deflecting the car or buckling to absorb absorb the impact, the guardrail end impaled the vehicle, striking Hannah in the head and chest and pushing her into the backseat," reported the Knoxville News Sentinel. It killed her instantly.
The car damaged 15-20 feet of the guardrail, and four months later Hannah's father was billed $2,970 for the repair.
"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 focused on 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 Lindsay X-LITE, a guardrail design that the transportation department deemed unsafe just one week before her death. It was taken off their approved products list, meaning that the model will no longer be authorized for use in future installations.
However, approximately 1,000 Lindsay X-LITE guardrails remain throughout the state of Tennessee. The Lindsay X-LITE is supposed to "collapse like a telescope when hit on the end," but it had a history of performing poorly at speeds above 60 mph. The speed limit on the road where Hannah died was 70 mph.
Two months prior to the tragic incident, the Virginia Department of Transportation removed the Lindsay X-LITE model from its approved product list due to its performance during crash tests. VDOT's impetus was Joshua Harman, an activist and entrepreneur who won a $663 million settlement against Trinity Industries after reporting that the company did not receive the go ahead from the Federal Highway administration to modify a guardrail design.
Eimers will push for Tennessee to follow Virginia's example and replace all the dangerously flawed guardrail models in the sate 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 and thumbnail credit: Handout via Reuters