VDOT removes guardrails blamed for deaths

Taking Action

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Guardrails that have sliced through cars and linked to multiple deaths around the country — including Virginia — are coming off the roads.

Last year, 8News exposed there were 500 Lindsay X-Lite guardrails lining highways the Commonwealth.

VDOT told us they were no longer an approved product and they were working to remove them. We were told VDOT crews would pull them from roads with speed limits of at least 55 miles per hour by the end of 2019.

So, 8News checked back and confirmed VDOT is sticking to its promise. To date, 465 of the X-Lite terminals have been removed and replaced. VDOT says it is on track to remove the rest by year’s end.

It is news that friends and family of Sarah Weinberg have been waiting for. In 2016, Weinberg veered off Interstate 66 in Fauquier County and hit an X-Lite guardrail. The guardrail pierced through her car like a metal spear, killing her.

Statewide there have been 97 reports of strikes with these guardrails. The makers, Lindsay Transportation Solutions, vigorously denies claims that the guardrails and their end caps are dangerous. They say X-Lite has successfully passed Federal crash and safety tests.

Meanwhile, VDOT was recently honored with two National Roadway Safety Awards. As concerns about guardrails began to pop up, VDOT created a ‘Guardrail Tracker Tool’ that lets the department keep an inventory of guardrails, their manufacturer and any maintenance or removal needed. Guardrails are meant to reduce roadway departures and the severity of crashes. Here’s more from VDOT about its Strategic Guardrail Management Program:

  • In Virginia, approximately two-thirds of fatalities are the result of roadway departure crashes. Guardrail may reduce the potential for and severity of roadway departure crashes. Therefore, the repair, replacement, and/or upgrade of guardrail systems is an ongoing process undertaken by VDOT for the benefit of the traveling public.
  • VDOT began conceptualizing the program in 2013. In 2016, VDOT established the new data- and risk-based strategic guardrail management program and leveraged data and technology to drive institutional changes in policy, inventory, process, and supporting management tools.
  • Leveraging technology, VDOT collected a complete statewide guardrail terminal inventory with detailed manufacturer and product information within a few months and at a nominal cost. A new Guardrail Tracker Tool allows data collection and communication via a single, agency-wide, cloud-based GIS platform. It also supports activities across the guardrail life-cycle, from initial warrant assessment, design, project delivery, maintenance, and eventual upgrade and/or removal.
  • VDOT also moved from a paving corridor-driven investment approach and now prioritizes investment across the full network through an innovative framework that integrates crash and roadway geometry, guardrail condition, and paving project data. This risk- and performance-based approach allows VDOT to identify and improve guardrail assets based on potential safety gains, maximizing the safety benefits of our limited funds.
  • Other program highlights also include real-time performance measures through Business Intelligence (BI) tools, mobile field data collection, and a robust knowledge management program.
  • Through these innovations, VDOT has measurably improved life-cycle management of guardrail and its return on investments, allowing product advancements to benefit the traveling public in Virginia by removing obsolete guardrail terminals at the highest-risk locations across the state.

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