If you’ve ever followed a pickup truck with a bed full of loose furniture or a car topped with a mattress that seems ready to fly off, you’ve thought about the dangers of unsecured loads. Road debris caused 683 deaths in 2016, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today if you’ve been injured because an object fell off another vehicle. Whether a piece of construction material hit your windshield or an appliance or piece of furniture fell in front of your vehicle, a good car accident lawyer will investigate to identify all at-fault parties and will begin dealing with insurance companies directly.
An estimated 90,266 crashes are caused by road debris each year. These crashes result in 19,663 serious injuries and 683 fatalities, according to NHTSA. Because of uneven reporting of road debris as a factor in crashes, the actual numbers may be higher, notes the United States Government Accountability Office.
Most of us fasten our seat belts and secure our children in car seats. It’s that same mentality which should prompt us to safely tie down loads in truck beds or trailers. Any loose object at high speed can become a dangerous missile.
While not every object that falls onto the road directly hits a person or car, anything lying in the roadway is a danger. In fact, more than a third of all road debris deaths happen when a driver swerves to avoid hitting an object, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which also found that about 2/3 of debris-related crashes happen because items fall from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads.
The most common types of road debris from vehicles are:
- Parts that come detached from a vehicle, such as a tire
- Unsecured cargo, such as furniture or appliances
- Tow trailers that become separated from the towing vehicle
(Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
If you are preparing to haul items in a pickup truck or open trailer, you need to take steps to ensure your load is properly tied down.
5 Steps for Safely Securing Loads
- Tie It Down
Don’t rely on the weight of the objects themselves or on cramming them into the available space and counting on friction to hold them in place. Whether you use rachet straps or ropes, always use at least two tie downs to secure items in multiple directions. Tie heavier objects directly to the vehicle frame.
A cargo net or tarp adds another layer of security against objects bouncing or flying out of a truck bed or trailer.
- Don’t Let It Slide
Use tie downs, cargo bars and cargo nets to keep loads from shifting. Rubber mats can aid this effort. After securing your load, drive a short distance, then pull over to check whether objects have stayed in place.
- Balance the Load/Don’t Overload
Distribute the weight of the load to reduce sway and prevent shifting. Overfilling or overloading increases the chances something will shift or fall out.
- Cover It Up
Use cargo nets or tarps over lighter-weight objects, such as garbage bags, to keep them in place. Such items should fit within the truck bed – don’t overfill the bed. Use a tarp large enough that it extends at least 4 inches over the sides of the trailer or truck bed, and secure it well.
- Go Slow
Stay off the freeway; use secondary roads and keep your speed down. Remember that added weight requires more room to stop, so maintain an adequate following distance from other vehicles.
These precautions are important no matter how small the load, as one of our own attorneys can attest. He and his passenger narrowly escaped injury when a piece of 2×4 was lifted by wind force out of the bed of a pickup truck and flew into the windshield of the attorney’s SUV. The wood had been out of sight, well below the sides of the bed, before suddenly flying up and back. Had the windshield blown out rather than cracked, his passenger would have been killed. Had the piece of wood hit a motorcyclist or pedestrian, the victim would surely have been seriously injured or killed.
All 50 states have fines or penalties for violating unsecured load laws, which result in litter. Some add the possibility of jail time. In Minnesota, initial violations carry a $60 fine, plus $75 in surcharges. Olmsted County Environmental Resources notes that littering fines are misdemeanors and that a second offense carries a minimum fine of $400 or a maximum of $700. More importantly, of course, taking a few minutes to properly secure your load can protect everyone with whom you share the road, whether you’re hauling brush in your pickup truck or moving household belongings on an open trailer.
If you’ve suffered a serious injury or have lost a loved one in a car accident * involving an unsecured load, contact us today. Suk Law Firm has recovered more than $125 million on behalf of victims, and we are ready to assist you.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”