TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - Before you hit the road, you secure yourself by putting on your seat-belt. But what about your cargo?
Last year, more than 1,200 crashes were caused by cargo falling from moving vehicles in Texas. Of those, more than 200 involved injuries or death. Items that fall from vehicles keep road crews busy with removal, which TxDOT Tyler spokeswoman Kathi White says crews do on a daily basis.
DPS Trooper Jean Dark said at 55 miles an hour, a falling object weighing just 20 pounds can hit a car with the impact of half a ton.
"Driving with an unsecured load is both against the law and extremely dangerous,”Trooper Dark said. "A mattress, ladders, wheel barrows, hammers, lumber, and other furniture pieces can come out of a cargo area of a vehicle and the car behind them might be yours with your family inside.”
In 2016, 28 crashes were caused by unsecured loads in Smith County, according to White. She said those crashes resulted in five serious injuries and at least one death. She says falling debris also comes at a big cost to taxpayers.
“District wide across the eight counties the cost to taxpayers for debris cleanup in 2018 was about $840,000,” White said.
On Thursday morning, TxDOT showed us the safe and correct way to secure cargo.
“As you can see, it’s pretty simple, pretty quick, pretty easy with just the net,” White said. "And if you have big pieces like this, it’s obviously not going to fly out.”
Driving down a Texas road with an unsecured load could lead to a $500 fine -- it could cost you even more if that debris damages a vehicle or causes injury or death.
“The charges can increase not only financially, but think of it personally for the families that may be involved in that," Dark said.
Across the country, there are 51,000 incidents involving unsecured loads each year, killing some 440 people and injuring another 10,000 people, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.