X-Lite Systems To Be Removed From State Roads

Hannah Eimers was killed in a crash last year in Tennessee after striking a guardrail. Her father is hoping to get states to remove the types of guardrails involved in the crash. Submitted photo

A yearlong effort by a Chautauqua County native to have a guardrail end terminal system removed from roads across the country appears to have paid off locally.

State Sen. Cathy Young on Thursday announced that the state Department of Transportation was planning to remove all identified Lindsay X-Lite Guardrail end systems. The move comes in the midst of a campaign by Stephen Eimers whose daughter, Hannah, was killed in a November 2016 crash after the vehicle she was driving left Interstate 75 in Tennessee, crossed into the median and struck the end of a guardrail on the driver’s side door.

Instead of redirecting the car, the guardrail pierced the vehicle. Hannah, who was born in Fredonia, was 17 years old at the time of the crash.

Eimers said he was overwhelmed by news that New York was planning to remove the units by the end of the year.

“This is an action that will save lives,” Eimers told The Post-Journal. “It feels good. It feels good to save lives. I’m glad that New York decided to act early and have these removed.”

“This is a bittersweet victory,” he continued. “The cost of victory was my daughter.”

Eimers has claimed that the X-Lite end terminal system is dangerous and susceptible to piercing vehicles if struck. He has appealed to state departments of transportation across the country as well as elected officials. He wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December asking him to have the units removed from state roads.

The Lindsay Corporation said the X-Lite guardrail system is on the list approved products in 33 states, though only 29 currently have them installed. Nationwide, there are about 14,000 devices, with about 80 percent found in seven states.

The company noted on its website that the Federal Highway Administration in May examined end terminal data, and found “no reason to conclude that the devices reviewed, including the X-Lite, are unsafe.”

Paul Karas, state commissioner of the Department of Transportation, said at a transportation hearing Thursday that 43 locations within the state have X-Lite products, with 16 locations already addressed and 27 more slated for removal.

Young sponsored legislation last year that would permanently remove X-Lite and similarly designed products from the list of eligible types of materials used for guardrails. Young applauded Thursday’s announcement by the DOT commissioner.

“On May 16, 2017, I stood alongside Stephen Eimers at a press conference and vowed that I would fight with him to remove from New York’s roads, the hazardous product that killed his beloved daughter Hannah. Legislation that I authored and that passed the Senate that very day was the catalyst for the process that brought us to (Thursday’s) significant news: X-Lite guardrail products are being removed from the state’s highways,” Young said in a press release.

“This is a public safety victory for every New Yorker who travels our state roads and one that could not have been achieved without the tireless advocacy of Stephen Eimers who was determined to spare others from the tragedy his family endured. I applaud his courage and the selfless dedication that has driven his efforts over the past year.”

Eimers said the planned removal of the systems will likely save lives in the state.

“I truly thank Sen. Young for her leadership on this issue,” he said. “My daughter Hannah was born in the Senator’s district so this removal and the senator’s advocacy truly means a lot to our family.”

Young said New York joins a “growing list of states” who have removed or are in the process of removing X-Lite guardrail systems from their roadways. States who have removed or made the decision to remove the units include Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Others have removed X-Lite from their approved product lists, including Maryland and South Carolina.

Companion legislation sponsored by Young would also direct the state DOT, in consultation with the appropriate local entities, to conduct a study to identify the locations of any X-Lite guardrail or guard rail caps on town, city and county-owned roadways. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously in 2017 but did not advance in the Assembly. The bill will be advocated again by Young in the current legislative session.