Society

Family Billed For Guardrail That Killed Their Daughter

| by Sarah Zimmerman

A father is fighting back against a nearly $3,000 bill he received from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to replace the guardrail that killed his daughter in a November 2016 car crash.

Hannah Eimers, 17, was driving on the interstate when she left the roadway and hit the end of a guardrail with the driver's side door. The rail impaled the vehicle, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, striking the girl in the head and chest. She died instantly.

Her father, Steven, told WVLT that Hannah still had her whole life ahead of her.

"She was remarkable," he said. "She graduated at the age of 15. She was self-taught German, Russian and American Sign Language."

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Steven says the guardrail his daughter struck was poorly designed and responsible for his daughter's death, a fact that TDOT knows.

"TDOT knew this was dangerous and that it wasn't performing well," he said. "They should have removed it, but their policy was to leave it on the road, playing Russian roulette with people's lives."

TDOT Spokesperson Mark Nagi confirmed that the X-LITE end terminals that cover most guardrails and impaled Hannah in that fatal November crash are a liability.

"We don't believe that product is working properly, so we're going to be taking it off of our system," he said.

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But four months after Hannah's death, her father received a $2,970 bill from TDOT, addressed to his daughter, for the cost of labor and materials needed to replace the guardrail.

"They had the audacity to send us a bill in her name for $3,000 for killing her," he said.

Nagi told WLTV that the bill was sent out in error and that the Eimers' are not expected to pay the $3,000.

"That was a mistake," said Nagi. "It never should have happened. We'll take measures to make sure that never happens again."

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, when a crash report notes damage to a guardrail, the TDOT finance division will fill out an insurance claim and bill the person responsible for the damage without taking into consideration other factors of the case.

X-LITE end terminals will no longer be used in new installations of guardrails. The end terminal that impaled Hannah was replaced with a different model. However, there are still 1,000 guard rails with these faulty end terminals still in place.

Starting March 31, TDOT will begin accepting bids from contractors to remove "most of those" terminals in areas where the speed limit excels 45 mph. 

Steven says he wil continue to fight to replace all X-LITE end terminals and make the Tennessee roads safer.

"I've got to be able to look the next mom or dad in the eye and say I tried to make some changes in the culture of TDOT, I tried to get some dangerous devices off the road," he said.

Sources: Knoxville News Sentinel, WLTV / Photo credit: Steven Eimers via Knoxville News Sentinel

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