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AAA advises drivers to secure cargo before hitting the road

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Leaves, branches and other debris fly off the back of a truck with an unsecured load traveling down U.S. 264 last week. Loose equipment and flying debris causes nearly 51,000 car crashes annually according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Loose equipment and flying debris causes nearly 51,000 car crashes annually according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

So AAA is promoting a national campaign to urge drivers to make load-securing a habit before hitting the road.

“Driving with an unsecured load is dangerous and against the law,” AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety President Tiffany Wright said. “You should secure your load on your vehicle as if the motorists driving behind you are your family and friends.”

Securing loads also includes securing trailers. Unsecured trailers can come loose and strike other vehicles, causing serious and often fatal injuries to unsuspecting drivers.

Doug Coley, a State Highway Patrol trooper stationed in Greenville, referenced a 2010 crash in Pitt County that killed a mother and seriously injured her two children.

In that crash, a flatbed trailer carrying shingles came unhitched from a truck and collided with her vehicle.

Lisa Langemann, 27, Greenville, died at the scene of the collision. Her 8-year-old and one-month-old daughters were injured. Langemann was in her third year as a second-grade teacher at Bethel Elementary School.

“If you are pulling a trailer, have it properly secured,” Coley said.

Another thing Coley warned against is having someone holding down furniture while a vehicle is moving.

“Having someone in the bed of a pickup truck is dangerous. I've seen a case where a man was killed while trying to hold down a matress. The mattress blew out and he blew out with it,” Coley said.

A 20-year-old Jacksonville man was killed in February while trying to hold down a couch and boxspring in the bed of a pickup truck. He fell off the back of the truck along with the furniture and was transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where he later died.

Coley said people need to exercise good judgment and not put themselves and others in harm's way.

“If you're gonna be transporting items, make sure they are properly secured with straps and bungee cords. Periodically check those and make sure they don't come lose, especially when traveling long distances,” he said.

Secure Your Load is a nationally recognized safety campaign that takes place as summer vacation and travel season approaches, but is an important message all year long. It was advocated for and established by Robin Abel, a Washington mother whose daughter was blinded and nearly killed by a board that flew out of a moving trailer, in an effort to raise awareness about road debris crashes and to educate drivers about how to avoid them.

A recent AAA study revealed that about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of unsecured loads and improper vehicle or trailer maintenance.

“Drivers have a much bigger responsibility when it comes to preventing debris on the roads than most realize — both outside the car for the protection of other drivers but also inside the car for the protection of themselves and their passengers,” Wright said.

In North Carolina, drivers face a $100 fine for creating road debris.

Some helpful tips for securing items:

■ Tie down load with rope, netting or straps.

■ Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer.

■ Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting.

■ Layer your load: put lighter items at the bottom and heavier items on top to help keep them in place, then secure the heavy top items.

■ Don’t overload your vehicle (take multiple trips when necessary).

■ Always double-check your load for secureness.

According to AAA Carolinas, debris related crashes are much more likely to occur on interstate highways and nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes result from drivers swerving to avoid hitting an object. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris can increase a driver’s risk of losing control of the vehicle and make a bad situation worse.

Experts recommend drivers following behind a vehicle with a heavy load to avoid tailgating or following too closely. Give your vehicle space to come to a complete stop or safely change lanes in the event that debris falls from the car in front.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR

Daily Reflector Reporter Michael Abramowitz contributed to this report. 

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