How much risk is acceptable to you when you drive? If you knew that a particular kind of car accident happened to only one driver every year, would you still get behind the wheel? You probably would. What if you knew that that risk was higher, and happened to ten drivers every single day? We bet that you’d still keep driving, but maybe you’d exercise a little more caution.
How would you react if you knew that not once each year, not ten times each day, but more than 50,000 times every year a driver on an American road is involved in a crash involving debris on the road? We suspect that kind of number would get you to sit up and take notice, because now we’re not talking about a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety came up with this figure after analyzing a sample of traffic incident reports over a four-year period. Their researchers estimated that between 2011 and 2014, road debris of some kind was the known cause of more than 200,000 crashes. Those crashes would have accounted for nearly 10,000 serious injuries and roughly 125 deaths in each year of the analysis.
These numbers align with an earlier report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found that in 2010 there were 51,000 crashes caused by road debris, resulting in almost 10,000 injuries. The NHTSA’s fatality numbers, however, were much higher, blaming 440 deaths on debris that year.
Even when no one is injured, the property damage caused by road debris can be serious and expensive. In an incident here in Salt Lake County in June, at least seven drivers on Interstate 215 found themselves saddled with thousands of dollars in repair bills after encountering a field of metal debris in the road that probably fell from a truck.
Hitting the debris isn’t safe, but sometimes swerving to avoid it isn’t any safer. The AAA study noted that more than one-third of debris-related crashes that ended in a death happened when a driver tried to swerve away from something in the road. Fortunately, there were no injuries in that I-215 situation.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is aware of the seriousness of this problem and has made efforts to educate motorists about the risks. UDOT wants drivers to be aware of the dangers road debris poses when it appears in a vehicle’s path, but they also want drivers who carry loads to be more diligent about securing their cargo. “If you think it’s secure, it’s probably not secure,” said a Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) officer, who told a reporter that UHP had responded to more than 11,000 debris calls on Utah highways in just the first half of this year. “Safety is everyone’s responsibility,” he said, “and if you don’t tie down your cargo, that can be a hefty fine for you, but it can also cost someone else their life.”
Fines are still relatively small in Utah, as low as $200 for a first offense. That’s not much when you consider the risk it causes (or note that the state spends close to $2 million annually just cleaning up trash and other debris from the road).
Car crashes come in all forms, and they have many causes. They can be the result of impaired drivers, distracted driving, or a vehicle operator creating an unsafe condition through negligent operation, such as improperly securing a load which then comes loose and causes harm to others. No two crashes are the same, so you need an attorney who can focus on the important details of each case and understands how best to pursue it.
Give Craig Swapp & Associates a call for a free consultation to discuss your case and to learn what we can do for you. Call us at 1-800-404-9000. You can also contact us by completing the form below or by launching the LiveChat feature from any page of this website.