Study uncovers dangers of road junk

Debris falling off cars causing hazards and deaths on the roadway (AAA)
Debris falling off cars causing hazards and deaths on the roadway (AAA)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows a growing problem with debris on highways around the country.

Researchers looked at four years worth of data and found more than 200,000 crashes caused by furniture, mattresses and other items that had fallen off cars and trucks. The crashes injured more than 39,000 people and killed more than 500 others.

“It would be on your conscience for the rest of your life if you were to lose something from your vehicle and have someone injured or even worse, killed because of something you could have taken a little extra time to prevent in the first place,” says Doug Shupe, a spokesperson for AAA Texas/New Mexico.

The AAA study found 37 percent of the crashes were a result of drivers losing control after swerving to miss something in the road. And the debris isn’t always big like furniture. The study also found blown tires and other parts from the car can also be dangerous.

“With the hot temperatures we are having, if you’re driving on under-inflated tires the possibility for a blowout increases,” said Shupe, who recommends making sure your tires are properly inflated because under-inflated tires are more prone to blowouts.

Not surprisingly, the study found debris-related crashes are more common on interstates and other major highways where people tend to drive faster.

So, how do you protect yourself from someone else’s mistake?

Shupe recommends focusing your eyes 12-15 seconds down the road to give you time to react. He also says to keep an open lane next you if you can. But there will be times when it’s impossible to avoid a collision.

“It’s better to slow down safely and hit the collision. There may be damage to your vehicle but when you look at what the other scenario could be, it could be the loss of life.”

In Texas, you can be cited for not properly securing your load. It’s a misdemeanor, carrying a fine ranging from $25 to $500. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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