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& Wilson, LLC Land & Soil Contamination : Vehicle Collisions : Personal Injury

A truck's loose cargo can be deadly

When you're rolling down the highway at 70 mph, the impact from a loose item is far more than its weight. It comes at you at highway speed with the added impact of hitting your car and maybe even the person in the driver's seat.

With all of the trucks hauling equipment through Louisiana, the smallest unsecured or broken piece can have a deadly impact. AAA estimates there are over 25,000 debris-related crashes each year, with 80-90 fatalities. They don't just happen from an item smashing into a windshield or falling into the road and blowing out a tire, but from drivers' sudden moves to avoid contact.

Tips for safe driving near debris

Sometimes the debris is from unsecured cargo or a dirty vehicle. In those cases, following at a safe distance in a different lane can make the difference. In other situations, it's natural debris like a tree branch or a wind-borne item.

Road scanning has always been a primary element to safe driving: defensively preparing for what may happen instead of absentmindedly cruising down the highway. On a long trip it's easy to slip into highway hypnosis, but most debris accidents take place on the interstate. Anticipation helps to avoid and surprise road conditions, including flying debris.

Many of the debris-related accidents are not with the loose item itself, but with other cars on the road, or with signs, medians, trees and road ditches. When an unexpected object comes at your car, it's natural to swerve. Sudden movements can cause a car to roll or to leave its lane, potentially hitting oncoming traffic or roadside objects. Slamming on the brakes may cause a rear end collision from the cars behind you.

How trucks can improve safety

Road conditions, weather and regular wear and tear cause many objects to fall into traffic but there is more that truck drivers can do to keep the roads clear. It's illegal for loose cargo to interfere with traffic and the same AAA report says two-thirds of crashes could have been avoided with better cargo security.

Vehicle and trailer maintenance is also key. Before a truck departs on a delivery it is inspected to identify issues. A thorough examination should reveal rusted or road-worn parts like a drive shaft, brakes, wheel bearings or tires.

Liability and lives are at stake

Securing cargo isn't limited to commercial drivers and truckers though. An oversized ladder, poorly tied mattress or piece of furniture can fly off any type of vehicle. Louisiana law fines drivers who lose cargo and in most cases those drivers are also liable in case of a crash. It may seem insignificant to a driver when an item blows away from a pick-up box or off the rear of a large trailer but to anyone behind him on the road, it's a potential catastrophe.

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