NEW YORK (WABC) --A study done by the AAA Foundation revealed that more than 200,000 crashes resulted from debris on roadways across the nation over the last four years.
Those crashes resulted in 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014.
According to AAA, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes result from items falling off vehicles because drivers improperly secure the load. Crashes involving debris on the roads were about four times more likely to occur on a highway, which can make crashes more dangerous.
Nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris can increase a driver's risk of losing control of their vehicle and make a bad situation worse.
More than one in three crashes involving debris happen between 10:00 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., a time when many people are on the road hauling or moving heavy items like furniture or construction equipment.
"This new report shows that road debris can be extremely dangerous, but all these crashes are preventable," AAA Northeast manager of media relations Robert Sinclair, Jr., said. "Drivers can easily save lives and prevent injuries by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent items from falling off their vehicle."
Drivers can decrease their chances of being involved in a road debris crash by:
--Maintaining Their Vehicles: Drivers should have their vehicles checked regularly by trained technicians. Badly worn or underinflated tires often suffer blowouts that can leave pieces of tire on the roadway. Exhaust systems and attachment hardware can also rust and corrode, causing mufflers and other parts to drag and eventually break loose. Potential tire and exhaust system problems can easily be spotted by trained mechanics as part of the routine maintenance performed during every oil change.
--Securing Vehicle Loads: When moving or towing furniture, it is important to make sure all items are secured. To properly secure a load, drivers should:
1. Tie down load with rope, netting or ratcheting straps
2. Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer
3. Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting
4. Don't overload the vehicle
5. Always double check load to make sure a load is secure
Drivers should know that many states have hefty fines and penalties for drivers who drop items from their vehicle onto the roadway, and in some cases states impose jail time. Drivers in New York state cited for the misdemeanor of failure to properly secure a load face a maximum penalty of $750 for the third offense ($100 and $350 for the first and second) and the possibility of up to 30 days in jail. New York is one of 16 states with prison time as a possible punishment.
Drivers should search the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead to be prepared for possible debris. Always try to maintain open space on at least one side of your vehicle in case you need to steer around an object. If you see you are unable to avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact. AAA also recommends that drivers avoid tailgating and remain alert while on the road.