Look out! AAA study reveals flying furniture, debris caused more than 200,000 crashes


DAYTON — In this, the peak of the moving season, a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reveals that more than 200,000 crashes over a four year period – some of them deadly – were caused by flying furniture, car parts and other road debris.

And many of the crashes, often caused by loads not securely fastened, happened during the day and on busy Interstate Highways.

According to the AAA Foundation study, road debris resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014.

“This study underscores the importance of defensive driving” says AAA Driving School Supervisor, Pat Brown. “Most of these crashes, and possibly life-changing injuries as a result, could have been avoided.”

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 10:00 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.

“Of course the drivers are also responsible for securing their loads and ensuring their vehicles do not pose such a risk”, Brown says. “Here in Ohio drivers responsible for flying debris may face fines of up to $1,000.”

According to AAA, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads.

Crashes involving vehicle related-debris increased 40 percent since 2001, when the Foundation first studied the issue.

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-$5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment 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.

By Cindy Antrican

For The Register-Herald

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