RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Department of Transportation crews have repaired a broken and concerning guardrail 8News found lining a busy Chesterfield County road.
An 8News investigation found it was the same type of guardrail linked to deaths across the country.
Since that report, VDOT crews replaced the guardrail lining a bridge on Genito Road. The replacement is not one of the controversial Lindsay X-Lite guardrails.
8News has also learned that as of Jan. 31, there have been 79 crashes around the state involving the Lindsay X-Lite guardrails.
In three of those incidents, instead of the guardrail deflecting the car, it penetrated the vehicle.
One crash happened on Feb. 29, 2016 on Interstate 664 at mile marker 19 in Chesapeake. Another happened June 2, 2017 along Route 175, 1 mile east of Route 798 in Accomac.
A third crash, which was fatal, happened on Dec. 27, 2016 along Interstate 66 west, mile marker 20.3 in Fauquier. This is the crash that the previous 8News investigation exposed involving 37-year-old Sarah Weinberg.
“Her vehicle was just ripped open,” explained Thomas Curcio, an attorney for Sarah’s family.
Curcio called the guardrail a metal spear.
“The first section rode right up over the hood and literally ripped the windshield open just to the right of where Sarah was sitting and then peeled back the roof,” he explained, holding up a photo of the wreckage.
Since the 8News investigation aired, two more lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer, Lindsay Transportation Solutions.
Lindsay maintains in the following statement that X-Lite guardrails have passed federal crash and safety tests:
“Lindsay Transportation Solutions builds road safety equipment that reduces risks for drivers on America’s roads. Lindsay proactively offers a variety of training resources to help states and contractors with proper hardware installation and maintenance, such as road safety tours, a mobile app available in four languages, and onsite training.
While X-LITE has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with Federal standards, there is no road safety equipment that can prevent injury every time a driver fails to stay on the road. Lindsay continues to work collaboratively with road safety stakeholders on national initiatives to enhance safety on America’s roadways.”
The latest suit out of Tennessee alleges Lindsay is negligent after a woman’s leg had to be amputated when an X-Lite “beam pierced though the jeep” she was riding in.
The other lawsuit filed in South Carolina, alleges a woman was “violently struck” and killed when an X-Lite guardrail penetrated her SUV.
In a response, the South Carolina Department of Transportation said:
“SCDOT, like other states, utilizes the national crash testing requirements adopted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for roadside safety hardware, like guardrails. FHWA issued a safety eligibility for the X-Lite guardrail end-terminal in September 2011 which remains in effect and was revisited by FHWA as recently as May of 2017. Based on the September 2011 safety eligibility letter, SCDOT approved the X-Lite end terminal for use on the State Highway System.
Due to the recent controversy surrounding the X-Lite end-terminal, SCDOT has suspended the installation of any new X-Lite devices on the state’s highways. The agency is monitoring the additional crash research testing performed on these controversial devices and FHWA guidance to determine the disposition of the existing devices that are in place today.
Due to pending lawsuits concerning this product, SCDOT will make no further comment about this matter.”
VDOT has told 8News it plans to remove all Lindsay X-Lite guardrails on roads with speeds of 55 mph or more over the next two years.
In a statement, VDOT said:
“Contracts are actively underway to replace all types of obsolete terminals across the state. VDOT estimates that 280 X-Lite terminals will be replaced in 2018. The remaining X-Lite terminals on state maintained roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher will be replaced in 2019.”
Yet some worry in the meantime, others could get hurt.
VDOT has no plans to the replace the X-Lite guardrails on roads with speed under 55 mph.
VDOT told 8News, “We do not have evidence of any issues or penetrations with X-Lite or other terminals on roadways where speeds are under 55 mph and we do not plan to replace terminals in these areas under our tiered plan. If we find problems with any terminals on roadways with lower speeds, we will adjust our replacement plan.”