Can Unsecured Loads Cause Car Accidents?
Many people do not realize just how dangerous unsecured loads are on the roads. Large objects such as furniture and large appliances that drop off of trucks can smash through a driver’s windshield in the highway, leading to severe and often permanent injuries and, in some cases, even life-changing disabilities, such as blindness. According to experts, even if a 20-pound object falls from one car and hits another at 55 miles per hour; it creates a force of 1,000 pounds upon impact.
Road debris has been responsible for more than 200,000 car accidents, 500 deaths, and 40,000 injuries in the past four years on a national level. And just in North Carolina, in 2015 alone, close to 4,000 drivers swerved and crashed to avoid objects on the road. 13 people were also killed and another 1,200 injured.
Drivers Swerving & Chain-Reaction Collisions
Objects and debris like this don’t just impact one car: For example, in one recent accident, one unsecured plastic bin fell from a pickup truck and caused an eight-vehicle pile-up, causing six people (including children) to be taken to the hospital with injuries. The truck had failed to secure its load, which then fell onto the roadway. The collision was caused by all eight cars slowing down to avoid the unsecured debris, ending up in a chain-reaction accident.
Even if you haven’t loaded anything onto your vehicle, it is still important to be alert and careful, keeping an eye on what’s ahead on the road when driving. Some experts suggest that you scan ahead one-third to one-half mile so that you can change lanes quickly if you see an object in the road.
However, make sure that you do not swerve into the next lane to avoid that object, colliding with another vehicle. Approximately one-third of the deaths associated with these types of objects resulted from a driver swerving to avoid hitting the debris or object and, according to AAA, 40 percent of drivers killed in road debris accidents are trying to veer around something that suddenly comes at them.
The Laws on Loading in North Carolina
North Carolina is, unfortunately, no stranger to this issue: one North Carolina State Highway Patrol officer recently remarked that he’s “moved more furniture out of the highway than at [his] house.” In North Carolina, there are laws and regulations related to ensuring that loads are safe for the roads. Those provide, in part, that:
- No passenger-type or recreational vehicle can operate on a highway with any load carried extending beyond the line of thefenders, on the left side, nor extending more than six inches beyond the line of the fenders on the right side;
- No vehicle (unladen or with load) shall exceed a height of 13 feet, six inches;
- The load shall not extend more than three feet beyond the foremost part of the vehicle;
- No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is constructed and loaded to prevent any of its load from falling, blowing, dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping from that place, etc.; and
- A truck, trailer, or other vehicle licensed for more than 7,500 pounds gross vehicle weight that is loaded with rock, gravel, or a similar substance that could drop shall not be driven or moved on any highway unless the load is securely covered by tarpaulin or some other suitable covering to prevent any of its load from falling, dropping, or otherwise escaping.
In addition, federal regulations require commercial vehicle companies to ensure that loads are inspected prior to hitting the road to ensure that the cargo or load is properly secure and won’t dangerously shift.
The operation of any vehicle whose gross vehicle weight or axle load exceeds the maximum limits shown on signs over the posted highway constitutes a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. Just for having unsecured cargo, the fine is $100. In addition, you could be held liable for any injuries, medical expenses, property damage, and related pain and suffering related to an incident linked to failing to secure a load via a personal injury lawsuit.
The message is clear: even if you are in a hurry, or you aren’t going very far, secure your cargo load.
Simple Precautions Against Accidents Caused by Unsecured Loads
State troopers suggest taking the following minimal precautions before hauling any load:
- Tie down any and all loads with rope, straps, and/or netting;
- Large objects should be tied directly to the car or trailer;
- The entire load should be covered with netting or a sturdy tarp;
- Do not overload your vehicle (it helps to know your tow rating);
- Double-check your load to make sure it’s secure;
- If you have obstacles hanging from the back of the vehicle, mark the objects with something red.
In addition, everyone should make sure that they do not follow too close to any vehicle, especially trucks hauling loads that, for example, feature bars instead of solid lift gates. It can also be helpful to note that more than one-third of road debris and unsecured load crashes happen between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the weekends because that is when many people are hauling or moving heavy items.
Contact Brown, Moore & Associates, PLLC, for Assistance
Falling objects and debris is unfortunately too common of an occurrence highways and other roads. When a load falls off your vehicle and causes an accident, you are responsible for it, regardless of to whom the object belongs or who loaded the vehicle.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a North Carolina auto accident, we know how overwhelmed you must feel. The ever growing medical expenses alone can be debilitating. We can help. Contact one of our experienced car accident attorneys today for a free consultation, and we’ll discuss your options.