Washington state troopers are targeting unsecured loads
Would you spend five minutes to ensure that you do not kill someone on the road today? I think all of us would answer yes. Then why don’t more people secure their loads before driving away?
Two people have been killed on Washington roads in the last five years from collisions caused by flying debris; more than 80 others have been injured in the 800 total unsecured load crashes in those five years.
The Washington State Patrol’s Chris Loftis said the public has to change its behavior.
“It’s a choice that people make to not secure their loads,” he said. “It’s also a choice to do the right thing and secure it. These are extraordinarily preventable injuries and deaths.”
The law is clear: You must tie down your stuff. In many cases, you have to use a tarp or a net to make sure that nothing flies away.
“If you’re putting it on your vehicle, you’re responsible for it,” Loftis said. “You’re responsible for the people behind you. You’re responsible for their lives. You’re responsible for their safety.”
Fines for littering can run between $50 and $5,000. You can also face criminal charges if something flies off your car and injuries someone. The state patrol pulls over more than 6,400 vehicles a year for this violation, which Loftis said means thousand more are violating the law but not getting caught.
Also, a total of 12 million pounds of debris were taken off of Washington highways and freeways just last year. It cost the state $4 million to clean up.
That’s why troopers are currently running a 28-day emphasis patrol across the state to target unsecured loads.
“We’ve lost two people in the state in the last five years, just for something so preventable,” Loftis said.
I get a lot of questions about commercial haulers and whether they have to abide by this, and the short answer is yes. It doesn’t matter who is carrying the load.
Here is where we get into a gray area. According to state law, any vehicle carrying dirt, sand, or gravel must be covered, but if those vehicles have “six inches of freeboard” maintained within the bed, they do not have to cover them. That’s why you see dump trucks with a six inch piece of wood on the sides of their beds. This gets them around the provision.
So what can you do if your car is damaged by flying debris? It’s really hard to go after the other driver, unless you have great proof of where the debris came from. A dashcam is great for this. In most cases, write down as much info as you can; where you were, time of day, type of vehicle, any markings, or a plate number. File a claim and let your insurance figure it out.