The crashes resulted in 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths. AAA researchers found that:
- Nearly 37% of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object.
- More than one in three debris-related crashes occur between 10 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., a time when many people are on the road hauling or moving heavy items such as furniture or construction equipment.
- Debris-related crashes are much more likely to occur on interstate highways
A spokesman for the AAA Foundation said drivers can easily save lives and prevent injuries by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent them from falling off the vehicle.
About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads. The most common types of vehicle debris are:
- Parts detached from a vehicle (tires, wheels, etc.) that fall onto the roadway
- Unsecured cargo such as furniture, appliances, and other items falling onto the roadway
- Tow trailers becoming separated and hitting another vehicle or landing on the roadway.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has regulations that strictly govern securing loads on commercial motor vehicles.
Currently, every state, including Vermont, has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. Most states’ penalties result in fines ranging from $10-$5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment for offenders.
Vermont’s law stipulates: “No person shall operate a passenger vehicle with any load carried thereon extending beyond the line of the fenders on the left side of such vehicle nor extending more than six inches beyond the line of the fenders on the right side thereof, nor when any baggage or other object is carried in a way to obscure either number plate or any light on such vehicle.”