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Road debris is a bigger danger than you might realize

Almost everyone has experienced some sort of frightening near miss with road debris from the remnants of blown tires to decidedly more menacing objects like mattresses or ladders that have clearly fallen from their trailers, truck beds or vehicle roofs.

While many are able to dismiss these close calls, there are others who aren't so lucky. By way of illustration, consider a report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety last week, which linked a rather shocking number of injuries -- and fatalities -- to road debris.

According to the study, there were over 200,000 car crashes caused by road debris on U.S. roads and highways from 2011 through 2014, resulting in roughly 39,000 personal injuries and as many as 500 fatalities.         

Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers determined that the majority of these crashes were caused by motorists swerving to avoid obstructions on interstate highways. Indeed, the report details accidents involving everything from fallen branches and tires to boat trailers and swing sets.

Although all 50 states fine motorists for failing to secure a load -- $100 to $500 here in Rhode Island -- this is of little consolation to motorists involved in head-on collisions with potentially deadly detritus.    

The good news is that there are things people can do to make the roads safer and to protect themselves from these types of crashes.

For those hauling objects:

  • Always ensure that any load being hauled is safely tied down and that chains on trailers are secure
  • Always perform the necessary maintenance on vehicles to prevent things like tire blowouts and other mechanical failures that can send debris flying into traffic
  • Always avoid taking interstate highways when driving with oddly-shaped items or heavy loads (if possible)

For those driving:

  • Follow the three-second rule (i.e., no tailgating)
  • Make a habit of scanning the road head for debris every 12-15 seconds
  • If a collision with debris is inevitable, reduce your speed
  • Try to maintain an open space to at least one side to allow time to change lanes if debris is spotted

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by the negligence of another motorist, it's imperative to consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can help you seek justice.

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