ATLANTA — A potentially dangerous type of guardrail is being pulled off Georgia interstates after an 11Alive investigation.
The X-Lite guardrail is named in multiple nationwide wrongful death lawsuits, which claim the devices spear cars on impact, killing drivers.
Georgia had as many as 300 of those guardrails on its roads but has since replaced some of the ones 11Alive identified in our first investigation.
Drivers won’t see X-Lite guardrails near the Jonesboro or Jodeco exits on I-75. That’s because the Georgia Department of Transportation replaced them after our investigation.
“It cuts people in half, it decapitates them, it disembowels them,” said Steve Eimers, whose daughter died after crashing into an X-Lite guardrail in Tennessee.
Tennessee removed all the X-Lites soon after her death, as did dozens of other states. Georgia did not.
“Oh I was horrified,” Sen. Emanuel Jones said about how he felt after seeing our initial investigation.
11Alive Investigators found a handful of X-Lites in Jones’ district. Jones said our reporting got GDOT’s attention.
“GDOT is well aware of the problem with the X-Lites," he said. "They’ve also told me they have a process in place to start replacing these X-Lites."
In a statement GDOT explains, “Out of an abundance of caution, the department identified X-Lite terminals and prioritized them for replacement”.
The agency said all X-Lites in Henry County off I-75 are gone. But, there are still X-Lites on Georgia roads. We found one off I-75 South near Calhoun, south of Resaca.
Jones said he expects GDOT to get them all off Georgia roads soon.
“Particularly when there's a safety concern on our highways, that should be a priority and address it,” Jones said.
The Lindsay Corporation, who made the X-Lite, said their product was safe. The X-Lite is no longer manufactured.
“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," said a spokesperson with Lindsay Transportation Solutions.
The company also pointed to this memo from the FHWA, which in part says and expert "found no notable concerns with the original crash test report."
The Federal Highway Administration said, "FHWA has a longstanding policy to encourage states to install the most technologically advanced roadside safety hardware. State departments of transportation, as the owners and operators of roads, are responsible for the installation, maintenance and replacement of roadside safety hardware. Starting in 2017, FHWA transitioned to reimbursing states only for devices that meet the current crashworthiness standards, which are outlined in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware. The X-Lite is a device that meets the old crashworthiness standards under NCHRP 350. FHWA is no longer reimbursing states for the purchase and installation of NCHRP 350 devices such as the X-Lite."