Driv­ers aren’t se­cur­ing their loads on the road, AAA re­ports

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

More than 200,000 crashes in­volved debris on U.S. road­ways dur­ing the past four years, ac­cord­ing to a new study re­leased by the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety. These re­sulted in ap­prox­i­mately 39,000 in­juries and more than 500 deaths be­tween 2011 and 2014. AAA is call­ing for driv­ers to prop­erly se­cure their loads to pre­vent dan­ger­ous debris.

AAA re­searchers ex­am­ined com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tics of crashes in­volv­ing road debris and found that:

• Nearly 37 per­cent of all deaths in road debris crashes re­sulted from the driver swerv­ing to avoid hit­ting an ob­ject. Over­cor­rect­ing at the last minute to avoid debris can in­crease a driver’s risk of los­ing con­trol of their ve­hi­cle and make a bad sit­u­a­tion worse.

• More than one in three crashes in­volv­ing debris oc­cur be­tween 10 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., a time when many peo­ple are on the road haul­ing or mov­ing heavy items like fur­ni­ture or con­struc­tion equip­ment.

• Debris-re­lated crashes are much more likely to oc­cur on In­ter­state high­ways. Driv­ing at high speeds in­creases the risk for ve­hi­cle parts to be­come de­tached or cargo to fall onto the road­way.

“This new re­port shows that road debris can be ex­tremely dan­ger­ous but all of these crashes are pre­ventable,” said Jurek Grabowski, re­search di­rec­tor for the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety. “Driv­ers can eas­ily save lives and pre­vent in­juries by se­cur­ing their loads and tak­ing other sim­ple pre­cau­tions to pre­vent items 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 be­com­ing de­tached from a ve­hi­cle (tires, wheels, etc.) and fall­ing onto the road­way

• Un­se­cured cargo like fur­ni­ture, ap­pli­ances and other items fall­ing onto the road­way

• Tow trail­ers be­com­ing sep­a­rated and hit­ting another ve­hi­cle or land­ing on the road­way

Driv­ers can de­crease their chances of be­ing in­volved in a road debris crash by:

• Main­tain­ing their ve­hi­cles: Driv­ers should have their ve­hi­cles checked reg­u­larly by trained me­chan­ics. Badly worn or un­der­in­flated tires of­ten suf­fer blowouts that can leave pieces of tire on the road­way. Ex­haust sys­tems and the hard­ware that at­tach to the ve­hi­cle can also rust and cor­rode, caus­ing muf­flers and other parts to drag and even­tu­ally break loose. Po­ten­tial tire and ex­haust sys­tem prob­lems can eas­ily be spot­ted by trained me­chan­ics as part of the rou­tine main­te­nance per­formed dur­ing every oil change.

• Se­cur­ing ve­hi­cle loads: When mov­ing or tow­ing fur­ni­ture, it is im­por­tant to make sure all items are se­cured. To prop­erly se­cure a load, driv­ers should:

1. Tie down load with rope, net­ting or straps

2. Tie large ob­jects di­rectly to the ve­hi­cle or trailer

3. Cover the en­tire load with a sturdy tarp or net­ting

4. Don’t overload the ve­hi­cle

5. Al­ways dou­ble check load to make sure a load is se­cure

“Driv­ers have a much big­ger re­spon­si­bil­ity when it comes to pre­vent­ing debris on the roads than most re­al­ize,” said Jen­nifer Ryan, di­rec­tor of state re­la­tions for AAA. “It’s im­por­tant for driv­ers to know that many states have hefty fines and penal­ties for driv­ers who drop items from their ve­hi­cle onto the road­way, and in some cases states im­pose jail time.”

Cur­rently every state 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 to $5,000, with at least 16 states list­ing jail as a pos­si­ble pun- ish­ment for of­fend­ers. AAA en­cour­ages driv­ers to ed­u­cate them­selves about spe­cific road debris laws in their state. Driv­ers should also prac­tice de­fen­sive driv­ing tech­niques while on the road to pre­vent debris re­lated crashes from oc­cur­ring.

“Con­tin­u­ally search­ing the road at least 12 to 15 sec­onds ahead can help driv­ers be pre­pared in the case of debris,” said Wil­liam Van Tas­sel, man­ager of driver train­ing pro­grams for AAA. “Al­ways try to main­tain open space on at least one side of your ve­hi­cle in case you need to steer around an ob­ject. If you see you are un­able to avoid debris on the road­way, safely re­duce your speed as much as pos­si­ble be­fore mak­ing con­tact.”

AAA also rec­om­mends that driv­ers avoid tail­gat­ing and re­main alert while on the road. Ad­di­tional tips on de­fen­sive driv­ing and how to re­port road debris to the proper au­thor­i­ties are avail­able on­line at AAA.com/Preven­tRoad­De­bris.

Es­tab­lished by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, pub­licly-sup­ported char­i­ta­ble ed­u­ca­tional and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion. Ded­i­cated to sav­ing lives and re­duc­ing in­juries on our roads, the Foun­da­tion’s mis­sion is to pre­vent crashes and save lives through re­search and ed­u­ca­tion about traf­fic safety. The Foun­da­tion has funded over 300 re­search projects de­signed to dis­cover the causes of traf­fic crashes, pre­vent them and min­i­mize in­juries when they do oc­cur. Go to www. AAAFoun­da­tion.org for more in­for­ma­tion on this and other re­search.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF AAA

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