Monday, June 6, 2016

Secure Your Load: It's the law as well as the right thing to do

By Barbara LaBoe

We've all seen it: A box falling out of the back of a truck that causes you to hit the brakes. A mattress tied to the roof of a car so precariously you slow down or switch lanes. Most of the time those are just scares -- but nearly 400 people a year aren't so lucky.

That's the number of people injured nationally every year due to debris from unsecured vehicle loads, according to federal estimates. And each of those 400 injuries could be prevented.

Renton's Robin Abel knows these stats far too well. She's the force behind "Maria's Law" in Washington state as well as new federal recognition of the dangers unsecured loads pose to anyone on the road. Today, June 6, 2016, Abel is kicking off the first Secure Your Load Day, which she hopes will bring even more attention to the dangers.

Abel never intended to become a crusader. But a February phone call in 2004 changed everything.

Her daughter, Maria Federici, was blinded by a piece of furniture that fell from a rented moving trailer in front of her and crashed into her windshield on Interstate 405. The impact nearly killed her and made Abel an overnight activist.

Maria's Law was signed into law in 2005, and means drivers in Washington face possible jail time if their unsecure loads seriously injure someone. Late last year new federal regulations also highlighted the danger and also made secure load projects eligible for grant funding. Despite increased awareness, though, Abel said she's heard from dozens of families with similar stories and there are still far too many drivers taking risks out on the roads today.

Just this past Friday, for example, a 19-year-old Kirkland man was hospitalized with a broken arm when a piece of metal broke free from a truck on State Route 97 near Leavenworth and smashed into his windshield. State troopers said he was "extremely fortunate" to be alive.

This car was damaged by an unsecured piece of metal, which sent the driver to the hospital with a broken arm on June 3. The State Patrol said the driver of this car was "extremely fortunate" to have survived an unsecured piece of metal through his windshield.

"The bottom line is there should be nothing loose in your pickup – nothing," Abel said. "Even a hammer thrown in the back becomes a weapon at 55 mph."

Abel isn't done with her work. She wants to reach out to state agencies across the country to raise awareness and beef up penalties. But she said her main goal is just to remind everyone to be careful.

"Secure your load as if everyone you loved was in a car behind you," she said. "It can be catastrophic if you don't."

Tips for Securing Your Load:
  • Use straps, tarps or strong netting – not twine – to firmly secure loads to your vehicle.
  • The "cram" technique also isn't enough – tightly packed loads can still come loose unless they're tied down.
  • Double check everything is tied down securely before heading out.
  • Speak up. If you see a friend, neighbor or family member with an unsecure load, talk to them about the safety risks.


Jeff Gray said...

No worries about unsecured loads on 405 these days. Once W$DOT put the Extortion Toll Lanes in place, I haven't seen speeds above 15MPH. But hey, at least we are lining W$DOT's pockets, right?

LMD said...

In Renton I'd worry about the kicked-up rocks. I have had 5x the windshield damage driving the S-curves for 5 years then I had the 30 years prior.

Karen Story said...

I often see dump trucks with uncovered loads, but it's too dangerous to try to get the license number and call it in while I'm driving. And who would I even call? When State Patrol see these vehicles, do they cite them? They're very common. They must feel they're immune to citations, or they wouldn't be so bold.

Barry Schaeffer said...

The state isn't doing nearly enough to protect us from rocks that fly up from tires of pickup trucks and from uncovered loads. Where I used to live, pickups were required to have flaps, and I never got rocks flung at high speeds at my head, which has happened several times in this state.

Vince R said...

Have had three windshields taken out by unsecured loads on gravel trucks in 5 years.

blackandsmart said...

In the matter of about 3 weeks I have been close behind vehicles that, in each instance, lost a ladder. First occurrence northbound, just south of exit 17. The ladder was in my lane, cars ahead of me swerving around it. The culprit on the shoulder, about a quarter mile ahead, apparently beginning an effort to retrieve the ladder (wonder how that went in dense traffic). Today, northbound on the entrance at the 405/522 interchange, a loud noise, car ahead of me swerving wildly, and there is a ladder sliding down the road. The truck it fell off pulling over. Laws and fines are one thing. Awareness for properly securing all items on your vehicle must be raised through different means. It is not going to help a victim if the perpetrator is heavily fined. An effort should be made to reach all contractors like pest control, roofers, landscaping services, with information that must be given to their drivers, or training that is obligatory.

WSDOT comment policy

Post a Comment