Why Driving With an Unsecured Load Is So Dangerous

Photo Credit: Kim and Ed Awada

In a terrifying moment out of Ohio, two friends are lucky to be alive after a wooden plank came loose off a truck and crashed through the windshield of their car as they were traveling down the highway. Although both escaped without injury, if the vehicle had swerved even slightly in a different direction, this story would ended in a much more tragic manner.

As Kim Awada and her passenger drove down the Ohio Turnpike last month, a pickup truck passed her on the left. As it did so, an unsecured plank of wood flew out of the back of the truck and smashed right through her windshield, landing in the console between her and her passenger.

She told FOX 8 News, “All the sudden you see this wood flying and just smashed right through our window… If I would’ve, you know, maneuvered the car a little bit differently it would’ve been a whole different scenario.” Awada’s dashcam caught the entire incident.

The driver of the pickup truck was unaware he had lost part of his cargo, and continued to drive until police caught up with him. According to authorities, he was cited with a minor misdemeanor, which is the charge in Ohio for driving with an unsecured load. The penalty for this traffic violation is around 150 dollars.

Awada told FOX 8, “I think they need a whole new law or at least revise this one and make stronger penalties and make people more accountable.”

A fallen wheelbarrow caused injuries in North Dakota

A 2020 insurance case in North Dakota show the risks of unsecured objects. A business owner was driving a pick-up truck with a wheelbarrow in it. At some point on his travels down I-94, the driver realized the wheelbarrow was no longer in the back of his pickup.

At some point, a different driver (who must have been some miles behind the pickup) traveling in the same direction on I-94 saw an object in the road and swerved to avoid it, losing control of his car. He crossed the median and hit a third driver, who suffered serious injuries. That object turned out to be the wheelbarrow. Even though the wheelbarrow did not hit anyone’s vehicle, it did force the second driver to swerve, which ultimately led to the collision.

What are the dangers of unsecured loads and cargo?

Unsecured loads are a serious highway safety issue. The AAA Foundation for Safety reports that, in one four-year span, road debris caused:

They also report that about two-thirds of road debris accidents result from items falling from a vehicle, either from improper maintenance or unsecured loads.

How do unsecured loads cause car crashes?

When a motorist fails to secure their cargo properly, any number of potential car accidents or truck accidents can occur. These can include crashes and collisions caused by:

  • Flying objects. Whenever a driver carries anything in their vehicle, it is crucial the cargo is properly secured. What seems secure at a residential speed may dislodge at highway speeds, putting you and every other motorist in danger.
  • Obstructed views. Improperly loaded and secured cargo can also prevent a driver from operating their vehicle safely. If a tarp comes loose while driving, or if contents shift, a driver may not be able to see clearly and can cause a crash.
  • Road debris. When cargo falls onto the roadway, it can cause other vehicles to hit objects and crash or damage their vehicles. Or, vehicles may swerve to avoid the debris and cause another collision or crash into a fixed object.

What are the most common types of vehicle and road debris?

According to AAA, the most common road debris from vehicles are:

  • Detached parts from cars and trucks, like tires or wheels
  • Unsecured cargo like furniture, appliances, and other items that fall off a vehicle
  • Trailers separating from a vehicle and colliding with another vehicle

These types of crashes and collisions are almost always preventable.

Avoiding road debris accidents

Although you cannot control how others operate their vehicles and secure the contents of their cars or trucks, you can take some steps to safeguard against flying and falling debris. If you notice a vehicle or truck with objects loaded on it:

  • Increase your following distance or get out of the way. Drivers should always keep a safe distance between their car and the vehicle in front of them, but this is even more important when following a vehicle loaded with objects or cargo. This gives you time to react if an object falls into your path.
  • Stay aware of vehicles in adjacent lanes. Stay aware of all your surroundings, including vehicles next to you. Ensure you are not “boxed in,” so you have an escape route in the event another car or truck loses its cargo.
  • Watch out in winter. Flying cargo includes sheets of ice and snow from other vehicles. Large sheets of ice sliding off cars and trucks can cause serious accidents when negligent drivers fail to clear their vehicles before taking to the road.
  • Maintain your own vehicle. Ensure your own vehicle is properly maintained, with no loose parts, and that cargo is properly and tightly secured.

Who is liable for a road debris accident?

Liability for accidents caused by road debris can vary, depending on how the debris ended up on the road. For example, the person driving the vehicle may be liable, as could the person responsible for loading the cargo in the vehicle. If the vehicle that lost its cargo was a commercial vehicle, the company that owns the vehicle could also hold partial liability.

Only an experienced attorney can identify all liable parties and hold them accountable for any resulting accidents and injuries, including securing compensation for those injuries and damage to your vehicle.

The car and truck accident attorneys at Larson Law Firm, PC represent injury victims in Minot, Bismarck, and throughout North Dakota. If you were injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, we work to secure financial compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact us today at 701-484-HURT, or complete the contact form to schedule a free consultation. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis.