On Wednesday, Nov. 16, a truck carrying pig carcasses spilled a portion of its load onto Interstate 75. The dead livestock, which were not secured properly to the vehicle, fell out of the truck and splattered onto the roadway, backing up traffic for miles, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. This bizarre spillage resulted in both a gruesome scene and hazardous road conditions for drivers in Sarasota.
It took hours for emergency crews to hose down the road and clean up before all lanes on that stretch of the I-75 were open again. While pig bodies are admittedly an unusual thing to see on the highway, every driver has come across road debris at least once while driving, whether it is a part of a car or miscellaneous trash.
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In fact, the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety found that road debris was a factor in more than 200,000 car crashes from 2011 to 2014. 39,000 people were injured and more than 500 died as a result of these crashes.
So how can drivers spot road debris before it becomes a problem and avoid it?
Most Common Types of Road Debris
Anything that litters a roadway and causes a hazard to drivers can be considered road debris, but the most common types that motorists will see on the road are chunks of concrete or rocks, parts of plants or trees, broken car parts such as tire treads or fenders, fallen signs, and roadkill. Items that have fallen off of a car as a result of being improperly secured, such as bicycles, roof racks, luggage, and furniture, are also common road debris.
How to Avoid Road Debris Accidents
A driver can’t control if a piece of debris ends up in the road in front of them, but by practicing defensive driving, they can often avoid hitting it. Here are some easy ways to avoid road debris.
Tailgating can make it difficult to see potential objects in the road ahead. In addition, when you tailgate, you don’t leave enough room to brake safely if you do see road debris, which can often lead to a rear end collision. Maintain a following distance of at least 3 to 4 seconds to stay safe, recommends AAA.
Keep an Eye Out for Trailers and Loaded Vehicles
There are certain vehicles you should avoid driving behind to reduce your likelihood of getting in a road debris accident. Trailered boats can often cause accidents because unsecured gear can fly free from the boat and fall into the road, according to the AAA. Avoid driving directly behind those who have their vehicles heavily loaded with poorly secured furniture and luggage, as well.
Don’t Drive Distracted
It goes without saying that distracted driving puts your life and the lives of all other people on the road at risk, but it is especially risky when there could be debris on the road.
Taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds — the average time it takes to read a text — while driving 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If there’s debris on the road and you’re eating, drinking, or checking your smartphone, there’s a good chance you won’t see it until it’s too late to stop.
Don’t Contribute to the Problem
Drivers in Sarasota also have a duty to their fellow motorists to not contribute to the problem of road debris on I-75 and our city’s other major highways. One of the easiest ways to do this is by taking care of your vehicle and bringing it to a trained mechanic for routine maintenance. Underinflated and worn out tires can often blowout or burst, which litters the roadway with pieces of tire. Poorly maintained exhaust systems can corrode, drag onto the road, and fall off as well, according to the AAA.
Be sure to properly secure any vehicle loads when transporting furniture and other large objects. Tie the load down with ropes, netting, and straps, and use additional tarp or netting to hold everything in place, advises the AAA. Double check that all objects are securely in place before setting off for your destination.
But Accidents Still Happen
Even the safest driver is not always able to avoid accidents when other motorists on the road make negligent decisions, such as improperly securing luggage to their truck or opting to text and drive. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a serious accident caused by another driver, we may be able to help.