Foreign objects in the road are so common that many of us barely register them anymore. Unless there’s a particularly unusual or inappropriate item on a local street or the interstate, most of us change course almost automatically and carry on. Unfortunately, that familiarity means that many people aren’t aware of just how dangerous road debris can be.
How Common are Road Debris Accidents?
Across one four-year period, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) calculated that road debris was a factor in more than 200,000 traffic crashes that had been reported to police. That’s an average of more than 50,000 per year, or nearly 1,000 each week. And, that doesn’t include
accidents that were too minor to report, or others that may have gone unreported for other reasons.
Types of Debris-Related Motor Vehicle Accidents
Road debris crashes happen in three different ways:
- A driver strikes an object in the road, either in a single car crash or as the first event in a collision involving other vehicles
- A driver swerves to avoid an object in the road and hits another vehicle, a barrier, or some other fixed object
- A piece of flying or falling debris strikes the vehicle
Nearly 37% of fatal road debris collisions occur when a driver swerves to avoid debris.
Where Does Road Debris Come From?
Objects can land in the road in many different ways–being thrown from a car, blown into the road, or falling from a truck, for instance. In residential neighborhoods, toys may be left in the street or roll into the street. But, the most common and dangerous source of road debris is items falling from or becoming detached from a vehicle. Some common examples include:
- Items from loads that are improperly strapped down (or not strapped down at all) falling or blowing off of a truck
- Tires or other parts that break loose from a vehicle, often due to negligent maintenance
- Tow trailers break loose from the vehicle
How Common is Road Debris?
Even though you likely see road debris on a regular basis, you may be surprised to learn just how common it is. In one summer month, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) officials estimated that they’d picked up about 1,500 items from Georgia roads…in a single district. While these items vary in size and type, officials reported everything from lawnmowers to kayaks.
If you see debris in the road, they ask that you call 511 right away so they can clear the roadway before the debris causes a collision.
Who is Responsible for Road Debris Accidents
There may be more than one responsible party in a road debris accident. For example, the driver whose vehicle the debris came from will likely be at least partially responsible if the item broke loose because of negligent packing or tying down, faulty maintenance, or other carelessness on the part of the driver.
In the case of a commercial vehicle, someone other than the driver may share responsibility. For example, if the driver is an employee of a manufacturer or a shipping company, the company may bear vicarious liability for the driver’s negligence. Or, another entity may have been responsible for safe loading of the vehicle. In short, anyone whose negligence contributed to that debris being in the road, or breaking loose and striking a vehicle, may be wholly or partly liable.
In some cases, another driver may also share liability. Imagine, for example, that you swerved into the next lane to avoid debris in the road. Then, you’re sideswiped by a vehicle traveling in the lane you overlapped. But, that vehicle is traveling at 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and the driver is distracted. Had he been observing the speed limit and paying attention, the collision likely could have been avoided. So, he may be partly responsible for the collision.
In addition, both the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia sometimes compensate people for injuries and property damage that occurs as a result of faulty road maintenance. This won’t come into play in most debris-related accidents, since the debris may have been in the road for only a short time. However, if the appropriate authorities have been notified of the debris and it hasn’t been removed or if other road defects played a role in the accident, the governmental entity may be fully or partly responsible.
Determining who may be responsible and assembling evidence may be complicated, and an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer can be your best source of information. It’s always wise to seek guidance from an attorney as soon as possible after a traffic crash. Timing is even more important in a case where the state or local government may be responsible, since the time for filing a claim is much shorter than the typical personal injury statute of limitations.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including victims of motor vehicle accidents. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.