AAA: Road debris caused 200K crashes over 4-year period

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that more than 200,000 crashes over a four-year period were caused by flying furniture, car parts and other road debris.

Many of the crashes — often caused by loads not securely fastened — happened during the day and on busy interstate highways, according to a release.

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” AAA Driving School Supervisor Pat Brown said in a release. “Most of these crashes, and possibly life-changing injuries as a result, could have been avoided.”

Nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Over-correcting 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 highways. Driving at high speeds increases the risk for vehicle parts to become detached or cargo to fall onto the roadway.

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
  • Securing vehicle loads

To properly secure a load, drivers should:

  • 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

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, according to the release.

Additional tips on defensive driving and how to report road debris are available at www.AAA.com/PreventRoadDebris.