Billed for faulty safety device?

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It’s the knock on the door no parent wants to receive, a law enforcement officer alerting next of kin that one of their own was involved in a fatal car accident.

What would make that situation even worse would be if the fatal nature of the accident were due to a flaw in a traffic device originally designed to protect lives.

Now take that scenario and add the fact that a bill was sent to the deceased by the state’s department of transportation seeking reimbursement for repairs to said device.

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That’s the scenario a Tennessee father is dealing with right now.

This unheard of chain of events began in November of last year when a 17-year-old girl was driving on the interstate when the vehicle crossed the median and collided with a guardrail end cap.

Instead of deflecting the car as it was designed to do, the guardrail punctured the cabin of the vehicle and killed the girl who was driving.

After dealing with the death of his daughter, late last month he received a letter addressed to her from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Inside the envelope was a letter requesting reimbursement for damage to the guardrail. That bill was for just less than $3,000.

As you would expect, his reaction was a combination of outrage and confusion.

A week prior to the accident, TDOT removed those guardrail ends from its list of approved safety devices in areas with a speed limit faster than 45 miles per hour.

That means TDOT knew the guardrails were defective before sending the bill.

I’ve never heard of the Mississippi Department of Transportation billing someone for damage to a public safety device after an accident.

Now that this story is receiving national attention, I doubt they will.

Even though TDOT said the letter was sent in error and the family owes nothing, billing someone for damage to a traffic device during an accident is bad policy, and it’s even more distasteful when that device is defective.