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When Debris on the Road Causes Trouble

We've all been in this situation: heading down I-5 South behind a driver who appears to be a home improvement aficionado, truck piled high with tool after tool. The items are tied down with rope, and it's possible to feel better by assuring yourself that the owner of that truck certainly doesn't want to lose any of his tools, but the truth is, at any point in time, that rake or board or hammer could come unhinged and fly through the air, striking the hood, the windshield, or even, as was similarly the case earlier in July with a driver from Gig Harbor, boring through the windshield and causing bodily harm.

Driving with an unsecured load could be the cause of an accident, and doing so comes with a fine of $228. According to King County, "Vehicle-related road debris causes about 400 crashes and twelve million pounds of litter on Washington roads each year." Those of us who find ourselves on the road at the same time as debris should consider beforehand how we'll react. Making some smart and quick decisions behind the wheel can help prevent an accident.

Is it better to hit the object or swerve?

Swerving comes with a higher risk of colliding with another car, so be sure to quickly check your mirrors and the space around you if you decide to swerve. If hitting the debris is unavoidable, try to slow down before making contact with it. Pull over as soon as possible to look for damage to your car.

Should I call someone?

If you notice debris on the road, whether or not your car has made contact with it, please pull over and report it. Doing so will help you and others avoid an accident. For dangerous debris, call 911 immediately. For non-threatening objects, contact WSDOT as soon as you can safely make a phone call. The proper authorities will come to clean it up.

Who is responsible for an accident or damage?

If you can identify the person responsible for the fallen debris, you may be able to hold that party legally accountable, especially in the case of commercial vehicles. If you are not able to identify the offender, your insurance may label it as an at-fault accident because you did not avoid hitting the object. Thinking ahead of time what you will do if such a situation arises may mean the difference between insurance-increasing, costly damage to your car and a more pleasant, safe trip home.

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