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Unsecured loads increase risk of crashes on Utah roads

SALT LAKE CITY –  A warning from the Utah Highway Patrol about securing loads as troopers investigate a crash Monday night. If you’re hauling anything in the bed of a truck, or on the roof of a car or SUV, make sure the load is secure.

“We always tell people that if you think it’s secured, it’s not secured. You have to know that it’s secured,” said Lt. Todd Royce with the Utah Highway Patrol.

A crash Monday night could have easily caused more problems because of a big piece of road debris on I-15.

Royce said a woman and her young daughter were taken to the hospital after the mother lost control of her truck. She was driving on the I-15 collector, near the SR201 ramp, and slammed into the median.  A treadmill in the bed of her truck came out, and flew over the 17th South divider wall, landing in I-15 traffic.  Eight cars hit it, and sustained substantial damage.

Investigators are still trying to determine why the woman lost control of her truck, and whether the treadmill was properly secured.

“A lot of people think, I’m going to load it and strap it down so the wind doesn’t blow it out,” said Royce. “That’s not always the case.”

The lieutenant said, the load needs to be secured for a potential crash, not just blowing wind.

“What if I rear end a car? Is that going to shift? Is that going to shift up to the cab?”

The UHP handled 26,000 calls for debris in the road, last year.  It was the primary cause in 45 crashes. The Utah Department of Transportation clears 8,000 tons of debris from the roads each year, enough to fill Rice-Eccles Stadium.

When you load a pick up truck, Royce said, put light items on the bottom. Place heavier, bigger items on top to help secure the lighter items.  Secure the whole load with ratchet straps that tighten and lock. Then ask yourself, what will happen to the load if you crash or roll your vehicle.

“If it’s above the bed, and it’s unsecured, we will actually stop you and issue you a citation for it,” said Royce. When motorists drive with an unsecured load, he said, they run the risk of losing their possessions and endangering the lives of others.

“Every week, I dodge or see at least one ladder on the road,” said Patrick Neville, who regularly dodges debris on his daily commute.

A few months ago, Neville was driving on I-15, headed north on a Sunday night.

“I was driving behind a semi,” Neville said. “It ran over a big wooden pallet which pin balled, and hit underneath the tires, and shot it like a bullet, ‘boom!’  into the front of my car.”

The impact broke the pallet. Half went under his car, causing approximately $4,000 in damage. Another piece sailed over, instead of through, his windshield. He said he had no time to think or swerve.

“I would rather just grit my teeth and take it,” Neville said. “Who knows, I could have knocked an entire family into a wall, and I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

With his car still in the shop, Neville was riding to work with his mother, when a pallet fell off a truck in front of them.  Costly repairs for both cars.

He offers a good suggestion for people carrying oversized loads: strap down the load and take a surface street instead of the interstate. You could save yourself, and others, a lot of trouble.


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