Road Debris

Ways to stay safe against the deadly toll of road debris

Robin Abel has made it her life’s mission to make roadways safer against vehicles with unsecured loads. Abel’s 24-year-old daughter Maria Federici was nearly decapitated when a piece of particle board flew off the back of a rented trailer and broke through the windshield. The debris crushed every bone in the young woman’s face. 

Abel relayed the ordeal to CNN, “At first, they told me she wouldn’t survive. I donated her organs that night, and then they called and said ‘come back; she’s still alive.’” Although Maria survived, she endured multiple surgeries, and had to re-learn how to swallow, talk and walk. She will also never see again. “When you see what someone has to live through and what they had to endure because of such a simple thing – securing a load on a car – it’s very heartbreaking,” she tearfully added. 

Road debris can be a deadly hazard for drivers and passengers

Statistics show debris-related crashes are not just freak accidents. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2020, 715 deaths, 16,595 injuries, and 82,479 property damage crashes occurred in the United States due to unsecured loads and debris on the roadway. A 2016 study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported more than 200,000 crashes caused by debris during the previous four years. The study also revealed a 40 percent increase in debris-related crashes since the Foundation started tracking data in 2001.

Need another alarming statistic? The United States spends up to $11.5 billion on litter annually, and between 20 to 40 percent of that litter comes from unsecured loads. 

In Louisiana, if you fail to properly secure a load, you could be fined up to $500 and/or spend six months in jail, depending on the severity of the circumstances. Plus, if you fail to remove trash from the bed of your truck before traveling, you could incur a fine and court costs totaling $1,000. 

Ways to keep your vehicle safe from debris-related hazards

Although Abel’s daughter Maria has gained some of her life back, the accident changed both of their lives forever. “This terrible tragedy took away everything, my daughter’s health, all my money, everything,” Abel cried. “I’m devastated that it was my daughter that was hurt. But I’m thankful that I have this opportunity to help. Because I know I’ve already saved lives.” 

Part of Abel’s mission involves educating the public on ways to keep your vehicle safe from debris-related hazards. And she says it really boils down to common sense and a few simple questions:

  • Have I overloaded my vehicle or trailer?
  • Have I tied large objects directly to the vehicle?
  • Is the entire load secured at the back, sides and top with rope, netting and straps?
  • Is there any chance something might fall or blow out of my vehicle?
  • What would happen to my load if I hit a bump, had to brake suddenly or was hit by another vehicle?
  • Would I feel safe driving behind my secured load?

If after asking yourself the above questions you don’t feel your vehicle is safe to drive, follow these tips to prevent things from falling off before venturing onto any roadway. 

  • Tie down loads with rope, nettings, or straps.
  • Tie large objects directly to your vehicle or trailer.
  • Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting. 
  • Don’t overload the vehicle. 
  • Always double check to make sure the load is secure.

Every year, June 6 is designated as Secure Your Load Safety Day, which promotes awareness regarding load tie-downs and encourages drivers to adhere to the guidelines. Because debris discarded in the back of trucks often blows out and litters our highways and communities, it’s also the perfect time to do your part to “Love the Boot” and remove any trash from the bed of your truck before traveling. Which is a common practice you should do not just on June 6, but every day you travel. 

If you’ve been injured in a debris-related hazard or crash, or wish to discuss specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.