Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials are warning all drivers who are transporting anything in their vehicles across the state’s roadways are responsible for securing their loads. According to 12news.com report, DPS troopers say they see a whole lot of debris littering Arizona’s roadways from wheelbarrows and landscaping equipment to furniture and Christmas trees, posing serious injury hazards to drivers.
The Danger of Dropped Loads
If you’ve had a small rock hit your windshield while you’re driving down the highway, you know that it can be startling. However, when that happens, it might not affect the safety of your driver. But if your car were to be struck by a large piece of cargo that fell off another vehicle, the consequences can be devastating. At 55 miles per hour, an object weighing just 20 pounds that falls from a vehicle strikes with the impact of half a ton.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office study showed that in 2010, unsecured loads and roadway debris caused 440 deaths and 10,000 injuries in more than 51,000 incidents. At the time of the study, only 15 states had laws including criminal penalties for operating with an unsecured load. Only 10 states even had safety education programs relating to securing vehicle loads.
What’s the Law in Arizona?
When it comes to carrying loads in your vehicle, the state has very specific laws. According to Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 28-1098. A: “A person shall not drive or move a vehicle on a highway unless the vehicle is constructed or loaded in a manner to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking or otherwise escaping from the vehicle.” This particular law applies even if you are only traveling a short distance.
Once a load becomes spilled on the roadway, whether you are an average driver with a regular class D license or have a commercial driver’s license, it’s a violation. The law also requires that if anything you’re hauling is going to protrude from the back of your vehicle by 4 feet or more during daylight hours, you need to put a red flag on it to alert other motorists. At night, vehicles must have a red light in such scenarios.
Tips for Securing Your Load
Here are a few tips that can help drivers reevaluate the manner in which they load their vehicles and determine if they’ve done it safely.
- Tie it down. When you are hauling large or heavy items, these should be firmly secured with solid straps, ropes, netting or bungee cords. It is best to tie large items directly to your vehicle. Don’t secure such loads with light string, which cannot possibly withstand wind loads of 70 mph on the freeway or highway. The wind can push your load right off the vehicle. Don’t use any type of restraint if it is damaged or frayed.
- Cover it up. When you are carting lighter, looser items such as tree clippings, a sturdy plastic or canvas tarp or netting will work to keep the items in place. Tie the tarp securely or the tarp could fly off and endanger someone as well.
- Organize your load properly. Put things that are lighter at the bottom and make sure they are secure. Also, check to see if your load is evenly distributed to prevent it from sliding.
- Never overload your vehicle. Keep items level with the truck bed or trailer unless it is covered with a tarp, netted or tied down. Materials below the truck bed should also be secured if there is the risk of them blowing out of falling from the vehicle.
- Do several checks before you hit the road. Check your load several times to make sure it is secure at the back and on the side and top. Loads can move and settle during a journey. This could cause restraints to loosen. Recheck your restrains when you stop and start again to make sure they are snug.
- Check your vehicle. Make sure that both the vehicle and trailer are in good mechanical condition and that your vehicle is rated to tow the load. Also remember that when you are carrying a heavy load, it will take you longer to come to a stop.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured
If you have been injured as the result of an unsecured load, there are a number of steps you can take in order to protect your rights. First and foremost, stop at the scene of the accident and file a report with the concerned law enforcement agency. Obtain a copy for your own records.
If the driver of the vehicle that dropped the load stops, get his or her name, address, email, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle license plate and insurance information. If anyone witnessed the incident, be sure to get their names and contact information. Get prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your injuries. Contact an experienced Arizona personal injury lawyer who can help you obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.
In such cases, if the driver who dropped the load is identified, he or she can be held financially responsible for your injuries, damages and losses. However, if the driver has not been identified, you may be able to seek compensation through the uninsured motorist clause of your auto insurance policy.
Whether you are going after another driver’s insurance company or seeking compensation from your own insurance company, you need a strong advocate in your corner who will fight for your rights and help you secure maximum compensation for your losses. In such cases you may be able to seek compensation for damages including but not limited to medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitative services, permanent injuries, property damage and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has been injured by roadway debris or an unsecured load, the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Zolman Law, PLLC can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Call us for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.