WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — KSN continues to look into concerns that some roadside guardrails found in Kansas are dangerous. Our original investigation into the controversial X-Lite Guardrails was in March of 2020. Since then, crews have removed more than 50% of the ones in Kansas.
Some people blame the X-Lite Guardrails for multiple deaths across the nation. One of those deaths was 17-year-old Hannah Eimers in Tennessee.
Her father, Steve Eimers, gets emotional as he looks back at pictures and a video of her final birthday party from 2016.
“I see my daughter’s beautiful eyes, just think back to those moments and wish, had I known, just held on a little longer,” Steve said.
Hannah died in a car crash on a Tennessee highway, Nov. 1, 2016. KSN obtained court documents of the crash report. It shows the weather conditions were clear when Hannah’s car left the road in the early morning hours. According to the report, she attempted to correct back onto the road by steering right, but her car hit an X-Lite Guardrail. The guardrail went through the driver’s side door.
Steve Eimers breaks down as he remembers the final moments he saw his daughter alive and when he thinks about what happened to her in the crash.
“Her injuries were so horrific,” he said. “The injuries these produce are so bad.”
He filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Lindsay Corporation, the makers of the X-Lite Guardrail, and he isn’t the only one.
Emily Jansen of Overland Park has also sued the company. In the original KSN Investigates report on the guardrails, Jansen talked about the death of her husband George on a Missouri road.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration crash report said his car drifted off the road and crashed into an X-Lite Guardrail that pierced through his car and killed him.
Multiple states have removed X-Lites from their roads. The state of Missouri is suing the company, going as far as calling the guardrails “defective and ineffective at preventing spearing, vaulting, rollovers, and other unintended redirections of an impacting vehicle.”
The Missouri lawsuit also accused the company of fraud, saying, “crash testing was conducted, at least in part, by Safe Technologies, which at all relevant times was a fully owned subsidiary of Lindsay Corp.”
Through state records in Nebraska and California, KSN found out the former principal address listed for Lindsay is the same address listed for Safe Technologies, the company that conducted the crash tests.
In a statement to KSN, Lindsay Corporation said, “The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) examined and re-examined the X-LITE and its in-service performance and gathered input from state departments of transportation across the United States. In FHWA’s evaluations, the X-LITE performed consistently with other end terminals on U.S. roads and highways and did not lead to any conclusion that the X-Lite was unsafe. Numerous states have confirmed that they’ve had no negative experiences with the X-LITE.”
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) started removing X-Lites after Hannah Eimers’ death, but a spokesperson said it was not because of her crash.
“We tried to get some answers out of the manufacturer regarding some torque specifications, and then our in-service performance of them wasn’t satisfactory to us,” said Paul Degges, TDOT deputy commissioner.
KSN asked Degges if he thinks X-Lite Guardrails are safe.
“At the time they were installed, if you hit one of those at how it was crash tested, they appeared to work as designed,” he said.
Degges said there are new standards now. States are moving to devices that are compliant with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH).
In its statement to KSN, Lindsay Transportation Solutions acknowledged the new testing standards. It said, “…this means that states across the U.S. have effectively been required to transition away from the prior generation of guardrail end terminals in favor of offerings from Lindsay and other manufacturers meeting the new ‘MASH’ standard…”
The Kansas Department of Transportation stopped allowing the state to use X-Lite Guardrails on new projects in March of 2017. At the time of our first X-Lite Guardrails investigation last year, KDOT had 27 X-Lites on Kansas Highways.
Now, that number is down to 13. KSN learned that out of the remaining 13, crews are in the process of removing and replacing nine of them. That includes two in Johnson County, two in McPherson County, and five in Reno County.
The remaining four are in Haskell County, in Sublette, located on U.S. 56 and Highway 160.
(DISCREPANCY: There’s also one X-Lite Guardrail on a side road in Decatur County. But KDOT does not count this in its inventory total.)
KDOT X-LITE locations and Decatur County location:
KDOT said it would replace the remaining guardrails over time. Part of its statement said, “that systematic plan includes evaluating and removing guardrail end terminals as part of our regularly scheduled highway improvement projects and/or when they are damaged.”
Steve Eimers feels it’s still not enough action from the state.
“Don’t put a family in Kansas through what we’ve been through, please, please,” he begs.
President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. There’s language in the bill that addresses crash testing and conflicts of interest. The bill said the Secretary of Transportation shall develop a process for third-party verification of full-scale crash testing results from test labs. It’s something Steve Eimers said he pushed to get into law.