With the end of the year total of mattresses and ladders it was interesting to learn what else drops onto our highways. Lance Hilldebrand sent me a link to a 2014 story from an insurance company which lists some of those things as well as advice on how to secure things and avoid them.
"If you drive much, you're bound to encounter the occasional oddball hazard. At best the encounter will make a good story; at worst, it could cost you your life. An AAA Foundation study estimated that road debris causes 25,000 accidents a year."
In 2013, CalTrans, the agency responsible for California's highways and bridges, spent $62 million cleaning up 155,000 cubic yards of litter and junk along that state's roadways. That is enough to fill more than 1,000 swimming pools, each containing 30,000 gallons of garbage.
Christmas trees are the most common item to fall off vehicles.
Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while driving:
- Maintain "a high visual horizon." Look far ahead, not just one or two cars in front of you, so you have time to change lanes before you reach a potential hazard.
- If you can't avoid something in the road, it's probably safer to hit it then to swerve and risk losing control of the car, Hill says. He tells of a young woman who was driving on a highway at night with her sister and niece as passengers when she suddenly came upon a garbage can. She swerved, lost control of the car, ran into a tree and was killed. Her sister was seriously injured, and her niece, fortunately, escaped with minor injuries.
- Properly secure a load on your vehicle. Test your cargo before you leave, Hill says, and if it moves around, then do a better job of tying it down.
- If you lose something from your vehicle, pull off to the side of the road where it's safe, call 911, and stay in your vehicle with your seat belt fastened. "We never advise someone to clear the roadway themselves," Hill says. "Pedestrians misjudge the closure rate. An oncoming car appears to be traveling slower than it is -- all of a sudden the vehicle is on top of you."
- Call 911 to report hazards in the roadway.