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Road debris may lead to deadly car accidents

North Carolina drivers and passengers face multiple risks from a driver who is speeding, drunk driving or talking or texting. Car accident dangers are also posed by non-human threats posed by road debris.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reviewed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found road debris played a role in over 200,000 police-reported accidents in this country between 2011 and 2014. This caused approximately 500 fatalities and 39,000 injuries.

Road debris was defined as debris from any source that poses a substantial safety hazard. This includes debris from another vehicle but excludes animals in the road, trees falling on vehicles, wreckage from another crash and construction materials in work zones.

AAA researchers found that a debris-related crash occurred when a vehicle was struck by an object falling from another vehicle, hit a non-fit object in a roadway travel lane or when the vehicle tried to avoid a non-fixed object in the traffic lane and crashed. These accidents were four times as likely to take place on an Interstate.

Almost 37 percent of fatalities in these accidents were caused when a driver swerved to avoid hitting the debris. Over one-third of the accidents involving debris took place between 10:00 a.m. and 3:59 p.m. when many motorists are transporting furniture, construction equipment or other heavy items.

Improper maintenance and unsecured loads cause almost two-thirds of debris-related accidents. This debris most commonly includes debris falling into the road like vehicle parts such as tire and wheels and furniture, appliances and other unsecured cargo. Other common vehicle debris includes tow trailers becoming separated and hitting another car or landing on the road.

Road debris may be prevented by maintaining vehicles. Worn or underinflated tires suffer blowouts that leave remnants on the road. Mufflers and other parts may eventually drag and fall off after rusting.

It is also essential to secure vehicle loads, like furniture, by using rope, netting or straps. Sturdy tarp or netting should cover the entire load. The vehicle should not be overloaded.

A car accident victim may be able to seek compensation from another motorist or property owner who did not take reasonable steps to assure that debris was not on a roadway. An attorney may obtain evidence and assist with filing a personal injury lawsuit in these cases.

Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "Fact sheet: The prevalence of motor vehicle crashes involving road debris, 2011-2014," Accessed May 20, 2017

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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