Driving Safety Home: Once again, secure your load

By Dallas Hammit / ADOT State Engineer

Debris removed from freeway: refrigerator, ladders, mattressses and furniture.

I frequently discuss ways we can all be safer behind the wheel, but today I want to focus on something you should do before you even get in the driver’s seat: Secure your load.

We’ve all seen those vehicles on the highway – the ones that are overloaded and almost overflowing with things. It could be mattresses or heavy equipment or even personal items being moved across town. Whatever it is, if it’s not secured it poses a real danger to everyone on the road.

Across the country, about 51,000 debris-related crashes occur each year, resulting in 10,000 injuries. In Arizona alone, there were more than 800 debris related crashes in 2017, resulting in one fatality.

Items that end up on the road don’t just put motorists at risk. Law enforcement officers and ADOT employees are put in the dangerous position of having to clear the road of the debris.

You can easily contribute to a safer commute for everyone if you secure your load. Tie-downs, netting, bungee cords, ropes, straps and tarps all can keep your belongings in your vehicle and off the road, making travel safer for everyone.

Here are some good tips from Don’t Trash Arizona:

  • Large or heavy items should be firmly secured with solid straps, rope, bungee cords, or netting. Tie large items directly to your vehicle. Tied down materials must be able to withstand wind up to 70 miles per hour on the highway. At that speed, the wind is providing about a 20-pound-per-square-foot push, which can dislodge those loads and push them off your vehicle. Do not use restraints if they are frayed, cut, or damaged.
  • For loose, lighter items such as tree clippings, a sturdy plastic or canvas tarp or netting can be used to keep items in place. Tie the tarp securely or it might become road debris as well.
  • Put lighter weight things at the bottom of the load and make sure they are secure. Evenly distribute the load to prevent it from sliding.
  • Keep materials level with truck bed or trailer unless tied down, netted or under a tarp.
  • Double-check your load to make sure it is secure at the back and on the sides and top. Remember that loads can move and settle during a journey, allowing restraints to loosen. If possible, recheck restraints shortly after beginning your trip.
  • Ensure both the vehicle and trailer are in good mechanical condition and roadworthy. Check that your vehicle is rated to tow the load. Remember that your load will make your vehicle less maneuverable and it will take longer to stop.
  • Ask yourself: Is there any chance of debris falling or blowing out of my vehicle? Would I feel safe if I were driving behind my vehicle? What would happen to my load if I had to brake suddenly or if I hit a bump?

Another thing to remember is that if you see road debris, treat it as the danger it is call 911.

Posting a photo to social media can’t guarantee a timely response, even if you tag ADOT and DPS. Calling 911 helps to ensure the dangerous items will quickly and safely be removed.


EDITOR'S NOTE: More safety messages from Dallas Hammit, ADOT's state engineer and deputy director for transportation, are available at Driving Safety Home on azdot.gov.