BUFFALO, N.Y. - State lawmakers continue to press the New York State Department of Transportation for information on the "X-LITE" guardrail end terminal, which remains approved for use on New York's roads despite growing scrutiny in the wake of multiple traffic deaths in other states.
Senator Cathy Young (R-Olean), Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) and Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) have all sent separate letters to NYSDOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll, demanding his agency review the use of the device and provide a list of X-LITE terminal locations across the state.
2 On Your Side first reported last month that NYSDOT's Approved List for Materials and Equipment included the X-LITE terminal, a device designed to soften the impact to drivers and passengers in the event of an accident. However, in November, 17-year-old Fredonia native Hannah Eimers was killed on impact after crashing into an X-LITE guardrail end terminal, which spurred legislative discussions in her home state of New York and led to immediate action in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation, which had actually pulled the X-LITE terminal from its approval list even before Eimers' death, will now begin physically removing the technology from roadways across the state, a spokesperson said.
2 On Your Side's partner organizations in Knoxville -- WBIR-TV and the Knoxville News Sentinel -- reported Friday that TDOT has also sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, outlining a series of concerns about the safety of the X-LITE. The Eimers family, along with two other families who've lost loved ones to crashes involving X-LITE devices, published an open letter asking the federal government to prevent X-LITE installation nationwide.
"At least seven families in three states have been victimized by the Lindsay Corporation and the negligence and indifference of additional parties," the open letter said. "Yesterday, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner, John Schroer, in a letter to inform the Federal Highway Administration of the extraordinary poor performance of the Lindsay X-Lite System detailed in depth its dangers. The suspicions of our families were confirmed that this dangerous Lindsay X-Lite unit failed our loved ones and killed them."
Lawmakers in New York are paying close attention to the developments not only in Tennessee, but also in Virginia, which pulled the X-LITE terminal from its approved list last September.
In addition to the official correspondence with NYSDOT, Senator Young introduced legislation in the State Senate to ban the use of the X-LITE altogether. Young, who said she sponsored the legislation in response to a 2 On Your Side report last month, has the support of not only Ranzenhofer as a co-sponsor, but also Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo). Assemblyman Ryan's office said Friday he still plans to introduce an Assembly version of the same bill.
Senator Young, who represents the area where Hannah Eimers was born, said in a letter dated March 31 that she has already contacted NYSDOT several times to inquire about the X-LITE locations in New York.
NYSDOT has not yet responded to her requests, nor has it responded to similar requests from 2 On Your Side.
"Therefore, I am formally requesting your immediate involvement in determining the number of "X-LITE"'s in use and their location in the state," Young wrote to the department last week.
In his own letter to NYSDOT, Senator Ranzenhofer asked the DOT to "immediately reexamine the use of the Lindsay X-LITE guardrail on New York State highways and urge DOT to suspend the installation of this guardrail system until the current inventory is examined, replaced or is determined to be safe."
Lindsay Corporation has not released any additional comments or statements, but last month, Infrastructure Division President Scott Marion offered reassurances that the X-LITE terminal is not a dangerous device.
"The X-Lite guardrail terminal has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with federal standards and criteria, and remains qualified for use on America's roadways," Marion said.
A spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration said Friday the agency has received the Tennessee Department of Transportation's letter about X-LITE concerns. The FHWA is reviewing the letter but will not comment further.
In New York, a NYSDOT spokesperson said the department will work with the Federal Highway Administration about any proposed changes.