Loose Loads Create Danger for Drivers

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What you carry in your truck could be a danger to others.

“I was driving down the freeway, and there was a large piece of what looked like steel framing,” driver Melissa Holmes said.

Holmes was one of 15 drivers sidelined by a ladder when it fell in the middle of Interstate 80.

“And it flew up and then landed back flat on the ground, and I hit it while I swerved,” she said.

California Highway Patrol Officer Chad Hertzell says the law is pretty simple: your load has to be secure.

“And if we can determine that it’s not securely tied down, or just not tied down at all, we’ll pull them over,” Hertzell told FOX40.

That ticket can run upwards of $200 in California. Other states allow judges to hand down jail time because of the danger an unsecure load can create.

“If you’re not paying attention, you swerve at the last minute, and you don’t see what’s next to you, you can swerve right into other traffic,” Hertzell said.

In 2010, the Government Accountability Office conducted a study which concluded roadway debris caused 440 deaths in the U.S. that year.

The results can be deadly to not only drivers, but CalTrans workers cleaning up the mess.

“It is a dangerous job,” CalTrans spokesperson Dennis Keaton said. “And that’s why we’d like more attention brought to it.”

Keaton showed FOX40 a West Sacramento maintenance yard where much of the debris ends up before it’s hauled off to the dump or recycling center.

He and Officer Hertzell have seen it all – ladders, mattresses, cans, bottles, televisions, couches.

Keaten says smaller objects can even turn into projectiles if they’re hit by a tire.

“So we hope this report actually gets a little bit more word out about the dangers of these kinds of items falling out of vehicles,” Keaton said.

Highway Patrol says your best defense against road debris is to leave at least a three-second gap between you and the car or truck in front of you. That gap will allow you to react if you do see something dangerous on the road.

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