We have all encountered it. A beautiful sunny afternoon, cruising down the highway at 55mph, window open, radio on and suddenly … a 10 foot piece of scrap metal is looming in front of you, directly in your path, right in the center of your travel lane.
Do you swerve to avoid it, cutting off the car that is in the next lane? Do you slam on your brakes and pray that the tractor trailer on your tail does not rear end you? Do you just hit it and pray that I does not destroy your undercarriage or become airborne and smash through a windshield.
AAA has recently released the following statistics concerning roadway litter:
*Since 2001, roadway accidents involving debris have escalated by 40%.
*Every year over 50,000 crashes are due to cars avoiding roadway litter.
*125 people die a year, more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014
*0ver 39,000 injuries are the direct result of refuse in the roadway.
Why the upswing? Multiple Reasons:
1. The Closing of Eisenhower Interstate Highway System Vehicle Size and Weight Stations. - In the 1950s, the Federal Government created an interest in preserving the integrity of highways built with federal funds. Federal interest in the nation's highway system also extended to ensuring the safety, productivity, and mobility of freight commerce. These Weight Stations would exist at state boarders of highways and truckers would be required to pull into them and have their trucks inspected. This confirmed that the trucks and their cargo were safe enough to travel through the state. Many of these stations have been closed over the years due to budget restraints.
2. State Vehicle Inspection Laws Becoming More Lax - States set their own laws concerning vehicle inspections. While some states require annual inspections (New York) others such as New Jersey are every two years. Add to that the fact that many states only inspect emissions. It wasn't so long ago that DMV checked the lights, brakes, wipers, tires and any "loose" bumpers or plastic.
3. Roadway Cleanup Cutbacks - A combination of Federal, State and Local Governments cutting back on roadway maintenance in their annual budgets has caused debris, garbage and waste to accumulate on the roadway. Road crews are generally required to spend more time fixing roadway hazards and repairing, then cleaning.
What can a driver do, to avoid becoming a casualty:
1. Constantly and continuously searching the road every 12 to 15 seconds to see what is ahead of you on the road. This can help you prepare and make a decision before your car encounters the debris.
2. Always attempt to maintain an open space on either the left or the right side of the vehicle in case you need to avoid an object by steering around it.
3. Keep at least five to seven car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you so that you can "see" anything in the roadway and have time to avoid objects that can fall off of the vehicle. If you see you are unable to avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact.”AAA also recommends that drivers avoid tailgating and remain alert while on the road.
4. If you see a truck or car that looks like the load it is carrying is unstable, move away from the vehicle. Put as much distance as you can between your car and that load. You should always look to avoid garbage trucks, car carriers, plumbers with pipes, glass carriers, fuel carriers, and anyone with a mattress tied to their roof! :)
Just be alert, leave lots of room, notice your surroundings. The more space that you can create between yourself and other possibility hazardous vehicles, the more time you will have to react and act.
For more tips on how to keep safe on the roadway: