We started seeing them around the middle of August: Pickup trucks with open flatbeds overflowing with randomly packed furniture (often an old couch poised precariously). Vehicles with luggage, boxes, and all sorts of things loosely strapped to roof racks and flapping in the breeze. Pieces of all of the above on the side of the highway -- and sometimes in the roadway itself.
Then, there are the cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs that go whizzing past you with the backseats, hatchbacks, and passenger compartments filled above the window tops with stuff. It's amazing there's any room for the driver.
It's the start of the annual back-to-school pilgrimage made by students attending college or university in Baltimore, Maryland and across the mid-Atlantic. And you don't have to be a Maryland car accident attorney to know an accident waiting to happen when you see it. The fact of the matter is poorly secured loads on the outside of vehicles, as well as unsecured cargo inside the car, are a real hazard to motorists on our nation's highways.
Unsecured Cargo and Auto Accidents
Poorly secured items on the exterior of the vehicle may suddenly break loose, becoming projectiles on the highway, potentially causing a fatal car crash. These hastily done packing and tie-down jobs can also cause accidents after the fact, when items that have fallen from a truck bed or roof rack land in the road and become road debris, and are struck by an unsuspecting motorist, who then looses control of their vehicle.
Likewise, anything in the cargo or passenger area of a car, if not secured, can become a dangerous projectile that could hurt the car driver or passengers in a serious car accident. Research findings presented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at the University of Baltimore in 2004 showed that even seemingly harmless objects such as text books can cause personal injury or death when a serious car accident occurs. NHTSA writes:
Unsecured cargo is also a potential injury source - e.g. text books, portable DVD players, golf clubs, softball equipment, water heaters, laptops, bowling balls, etc. (NHTSA, Crash Assessment for Field Triage “Rules and Exceptions”, Nov. 4, 2004)
So when you or your kids pack up for college, please take special care and make sure everything is secure on the inside and outside of your vehicle -- for the sake of the driver, his or her passengers, and the lives of the other motorists sharing Maryland's highways.
Related Web Resource
NHTSA, Crash Assessment for Field Triage, “Rules and Exceptions”, Nov. 4, 2004