While annoying and disgusting, roadside garbage is generally harmless to motorists. However, debris from car crashes, exploding tires, and items that have fallen off of or out of cars and trucks present a tremendous danger to all motorists. Not only do drivers following a vehicle that has lost some of its cargo have to avoid contacting the obstruction, but the other people sharing the road must take evasive action as well.
The sudden and unexpected obstacle appearing in the road can create a chain reaction car accident when one driver swerves to avoid hitting the object. The motorist could slam into a vehicle in a neighboring lane or collide with a guardrail. Furthermore, traffic must react to the evasive action taken by the first motorist. The reaction by following drivers can lead to other accidents, especially if people follow too closely.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) completed a study in 2016 regarding auto accidents caused by road debris. AAA calculated that road debris collisions are much more likely to occur on interstate highways when compared to other road configurations. The results of the study concluded that 37% of all fatalities were caused by drivers who swerved to avoid colliding with the debris.
The number of accidents attributed to road debris is staggering. AAA determined that 200,000 accidents, leading to approximately 500 deaths, and 39,000 injuries caused by road debris occurred in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.
AAA investigated the reasons behind debris falling onto the road. The researchers concluded that poor vehicle maintenance and improperly secured loads cause the majority of debris-related accidents. AAA recommends that people make sure that their loads are adequately secured and that all tires are inflated correctly to prevent debrisfrom falling onto the road surface. Moreover, motorists following behind vehicles carrying a payload should leave sufficient time to react to cargo that comes loose.