Road Debris: A Roadblock to Motorist Safety

Over the past four years, more than 200,000 crashes involving debris have occurred on U.S. roadways. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, these crashes have resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths.

Two-thirds of these crashes can be directly attributed to items falling from a vehicle at high speeds. Therefore, it should be no surprise that most of these debris-related crashes occur on Interstate highways.
underinflated tire

Vehicle debris can be broken down into three categories:

  • A part of the vehicle becoming detached (ex. badly worn/underinflated tires)
  • Unsecure cargo (ex. furniture/appliances)
  • A trailer becoming separated from its tow vehicle

Most of these crashes result from a driver swerving to avoid the debris or overcorrecting and losing control of their vehicle. This AAA study shows that road debris is extremely dangerous, but most crashes are preventable.

To decrease your chances of being involved in a road-debris crash:

  • Maintain your vehicle – Routinely have your vehicle checked by a trained mechanic.
  • Properly secure your cargo with rope, netting, or straps – Double check to make sure your cargo is secure and never overload your vehicle or trailer.
  • Practice defensive driving – Maintain a safe speed and following distance from the vehicle in front of you.pickup-truck-1210056_640

Every state has a law that makes it illegal for an item to fall from a vehicle onto the roadway, and many of these states include hefty fines or penalties. Pennsylvania is no exception and considers the violation a summary offense and fines can range anywhere from $100-$1,000 based on any resulting injuries. As you can see, motorists play a large role and responsibility in preventing debris-related crashes.


Drivers can easily save lives by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent items from falling off their vehicle.” – Jurek Grabowski, AAA Foundation for Vehicle Safety Research Director