More than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways over the past four years, according to a study released Thursday 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, the study found.
That data prompted AAA to call for drivers to properly secure their loads to prevent dangerous debris by maintaining their cars, making sure their tires are inflated and their exhaust systems are not corroded.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
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.
About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads, the study found. 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, like a tire or wheel, 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.