Imagine that you are motoring along in the left lane of I-95 at 9 p.m. on a weeknight in moderate to light traffic. It is raining. Suddenly, a tractor trailer–150 feet in front of you–begins to swerve erratically from lane to lane before toppling over on its side into a wooded median. It caroms into a stand of trees, its rear doors fly open, its cargo spills out, rips open and scatters debris in every direction, some onto the highway.
Naturally, you are startled and terrorized as this event unfolds.
You apply your brakes firmly, glancing quickly at your right-side mirror to see if another car is close enough that prevents you from suddenly swerving to right.
Fortunately, the lane is clear and you can ease right, onto the shoulder.
Your heart is pounding.
You glance in your rearview mirror to see if other cars following manage to maneuver around the scattered debris from the mangled semi.
You pick up your cell phone and call 911. All in an instant. You heave a sigh of relief that you miraculously avoided a potentially life-threatening accident.
This horrific scenario actually happened along I-95 in South Carolina just a few miles from the Georgia border. An 18-wheeler ran off the road near mile marker 13 in Jasper County. The truck, carrying hundreds of pounds of raw chicken, crashed onto the median and through a stand of trees. According to the Ridgeland Fire Department Chief, there were chicken parts everywhere– hanging from tree limbs, laying about in the median, some spilling back onto I- 95. Miraculously no was seriously injured. The driver was trapped in the truck’s front cab, unhurt. The coroner, who is usually called to an accident scene to investigate whenever death is likely, said that the driver was lucky since drivers whose cars and trucks crash into trees in the median usually die, as do other motorists whose vehicles strike debris scattered about on the highway.
Besides raw chicken parts, road debris can include anything that doesn’t belong on the road–pieces of blown-out truck tires; downed trees or branches; telephone wires; garbage; mattresses; furniture; or other objects like leaves, stones and gravel that fall off the back of trucks. Debris may be left on the road for any number of reasons, including but not limited to a driver’s negligent failure to secure his load; the city’s, county’s, or state’s failure to maintain the road; and driver negligence.
A truck or automobile driver is responsible for ensuring that any load he carried in or on his vehicle is secure and does not pose a danger to others. The driver may be liable for any injuries to others when an object falls off his vehicle and causes an accident.
All drivers are responsible for paying attention to their surroundings. A distracted driver or a driver traveling too fast for existing conditions may cause an accident after hitting debris in the road. If an accident could have been avoided had the driver not been inattentive, the driver may found liable for injuries to himself or others.