Road Debris Can Cause Serious Accidents

September 28th, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

In most cases, road debris on a Kentucky road or highway is an annoyance, something you can easily avoid or drive over. Sometimes drivers can’t avoid it and the consequences can be fatal. Hitting the debris can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Swerving around it or hitting your brakes to avoid it may cause a collision with another vehicle. If the debris is hard and heavy enough and it hits the windshield, it can directly impact the driver or passengers.

  • 29-year-old Matthew Reif of Phoenix was killed in a car accident in 2006 when a small piece of unsecured scrap metal came off the truck ahead of him, smashed through his windshield and impaled him in the chest, according to CNN.
  • Maria Federici, was 24 in 2004 when a piece of particle board came off a rented trailer in front of her vehicle, broke through her windshield, nearly decapitated her and crushed every bone in her face. At first doctors didn’t think she’d survive. She did but has paid a heavy price for another person’s negligence. She is blind, has had several surgeries and has had to learn to swallow, talk and walk again.

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found:

  • Road debris was a factor in more than 200,000 crashes reported to police from 2011 to 2014.
  • It killed more than 500 people and injured another 39,000.
  • That’s a 40% increase since 2001, when the Foundation first studied the problem.

The federal Government Accountability Office released a similar study in 2012. It used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found higher numbers: 440 deaths and 10,000 injuries in 2010 resulting from accidents caused by road debris from unsecured loads. The GAO study also found that more deaths and injuries occurred in states that had fewer laws in place to deal with offenders. Under Kentucky law, a driver with an unsecured load can be fined $100.

All fifty states have laws making unsecured loads illegal, according to AAA. Fines range from $10 to $5,000. In sixteen states, jail time is a possible punishment for offenders. Eleven states impose fines above $500. The GAO report found that debris-related accidents were less common in states with tougher unsecured-load laws.

Unsecured loads can be in commercial vehicles owned by businesses or individuals driving their own cars, trucks or hauling trailers. If you’re hauling something on the roadways think about these things:

  • Is the vehicle or trailer overloaded?
  • Are large objects tied directly to the vehicle?
  • Is the load secured at the back, sides and top with rope, netting and straps?
  • Might something fall or blow out of the vehicle?
  • If you hit a bump, had to brake suddenly or were hit by another vehicle, what would happen to the load?
  • Would you want your family to be driving behind you?

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by an unsecured load or road debris in Kentucky, call the Julie Butcher Law Office at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form to talk about your case, applicable laws and your legal options.