American drivers aren’t securing their loads

PORTLAND, Ore., – 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. Road debris has 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 finds:Road-Debris-and-Crashes-Infographic

  • 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 such as 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. Crashes involving vehicle related-debris increased 40 percent since 2001, when the Foundation first studied the issue. The most common types of 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

AAA says drivers can decrease their chances of being involved in a road debris crash by:

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

“Drivers need to do their part in preventing debris on the roads,” says Marie Dodds, Public Affairs Director for AAA Oregon. “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. In Oregon, it’s a Class B traffic violation with a fine of $260 (ORS 818.300 through 818.410; ORS 153.019). AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves about specific road debris laws in their state. Click here for a state-by-state chart of road debris laws.

AAA encourages drivers to practice defensive driving techniques to prevent debris related crashes from occurring:

  • Continually scanning the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead can help drivers be prepared for debris
  • 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 can’t avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before hitting it.
  • Avoid tailgating
  • Ditch distractions and remain alert while driving.
  • Additional tips on defensive driving and how to report road debris to the proper authorities are available online at

The complete report on the dangers of road debris is available at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Click here for B-roll video.

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.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at


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