Tennessee Sends Family of Teen Killed in Car Crash a Bill for Guardrail Destroyed in Accident

Steven Eimers received a bill of almost $3,000 to replace the 25-foot section that killed his daughter.

On the morning of November 1, 2016, 17-year-old Hannah Eimers was driving a friend to school on Interstate 75 in Tennessee, when her 2000 Volvo S80 left the road, impacted the terminal end of a guardrail with its driver’s side door. Instead of buckling or folding away as it was designed to do in such an impact, the guardrail penetrated the car, striking Hannah in the head and chest and killing her instantly. 

Now, to add insult to injury, her father is fighting for action after the state sent him a $3,000 bill to replace the damaged section of guardrail, according to a report in USA Today.

“It’s obscene,” Steven Eimers told The Washington Post. “They will kill you and then they will bill you. The bill was absolutely tasteless…It’s almost comical. It’s like the most obscene comedy skit you can come up with.”

Guardrail design has evolved over the decades, with particular attention being paid to how best to design end sections to prevent this exact type of tragedy from occurring. Starting in the 1970s, manufacturers experimented with ways to absorb the energy of a crash and either deflect or crumple the “tip of the spear,” so to speak. But these systems, like the Lindsay X-LITE model that Hannah’s car hit, don’t always work as intended.

How the crash unfolded., Tennessee Highway Patrol via Knox News Sentinel

In fact, the Tennessee Department of Transportation had taken the Lindsay X-LITE off its list of approved products just one week prior to the crash over concerns “about how the telescoping w-beam [and] slider assembly friction reduction system may perform if impacted at higher speeds” above the testing speed of 62.2 miles per hour. The speed limit on that section of I-75 is 70 mph. 

But the decision merely meant it wouldn’t be used in the future. The project to replace the nearly 1,000 X-LITE terminal ends across the state is only set to enter the bidding stage at the end of this month. 

The section that Hannah hit has since been replaced by a different model—a move that apparently triggered the erroneous bill.

TDOT Spokesman Mark Nagi told USA Today the bill was a “mistake somewhere in processing” and apologized to the Eimers family. But that’s not enough for the grieving father, who’ll head to the state capitol this week to push legislators to be more proactive in removing potentially deadly hazards from the roads.

“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,” Steven Eimers told the Knoxville News Sentinel.