Can road debris damage your car? Reports from organizations including the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) list road debris as a serious road hazard resulting in property damage, road damage, personal injuries, and deaths.
In the following article, we will look at the prevalence of debris-caused accidents in Kentucky and the United States, the types of road debris drivers may encounter, the kinds of damage that can result from a road debris collision, and safety tips to protect yourself and other drivers from road debris collisions.
Those seeking more information in the Georgetown area are welcome to contact the Law Office of Todd W. Burris with questions about car accident law in Kentucky.
How Common Are Road Debris Accidents in Kentucky and the U.S.?
Debris is one of the five most common road hazards in Kentucky. According to the most recent Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts report, “debris in roadway” was a contributing factor in over 1,110 accidents in Kentucky within one year. That means more collisions were caused by road debris that year than by driver fatigue, weaving in traffic, road maintenance issues, steering failures, potholes, tire failures, improperly parked vehicles, or several other common causes of accidents.
And national road debris accident statistics published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicate that debris on the highway and road is a major issue for drivers across the country. Road debris was found to be a factor in over 200,000 police-reported crashes across a three-year span. These crashes led to approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths. Most of these injuries and deaths occurred on interstate highways.
It’s evident that road debris is a serious problem for U.S. drivers. It’s important to note that nearly two-thirds of all reported road debris accidents were caused by objects falling from moving vehicles. These objects were generally broken-down auto parts or poorly-secured items being hauled or towed. This type of accident is entirely preventable through simple vehicle maintenance and proper load-securing efforts.
What Are Different Types of Road Debris?
What is included under the term “debris” when discussing road accidents? Debris can be defined as any hazard that is foreign to the roadway—in other words, something that’s not supposed to be there. Because drivers don’t anticipate the sudden appearance of these objects, collisions, vehicle damage, and personal injury can result. Road debris can be any object in the highway or road, but there are some objects seen more frequently than others. These include:
- Furniture, appliances, equipment, and other items that have fallen off vehicles
- Pieces of blown tires
- Broken fenders, mufflers, and other damaged auto parts
- Wreckage from another car accident
- Broken traffic signals, signs, guardrails, lights, and other road fixtures
- Fallen rocks, pieces of concrete, and stones thrown by tires
- Oil or other liquid spills
- Garbage cans, mailboxes, fence parts, and other yard property
- Road construction equipment
- Animals (most often deer) killed by motor vehicles
- Unhitched trailers
- Clothing, bags, papers, bottles, and other small objects that flew out of moving cars
- Natural debris like tree limbs
What Kind of Damage Is Caused by Road Debris?
Road debris damage to a vehicle can be more significant than one might think. There are serious dangers when a car travels at 70 miles per hour or more toward debris on a highway. Whether you collide with debris, flying debris hits your car, or debris causes a collision with another vehicle or object, you can expect that your vehicle will suffer structural damage. This can include several types of vehicle damage, such as:
- Broken windshields
- Cracked windows
- Dents, scratches, and slicing from sharp objects
- Popped tires
- Fender damage
- Broken headlights and taillights
- Damage to electrical systems
- A bent, cracked, or twisted frame
- Alignment issues
- Airbag deployment
- Engine damage and transmission damage
While road debris collisions can result in acute vehicle damage, the injuries a person might sustain in a debris-caused crash should be taken even more seriously. A highway accident caused by flying debris can put multiple parties at risk. In the research findings published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 37% of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted when one driver swerved to avoid hitting an object.
The following types of accidents can occur when road debris is present:
- A one-vehicle collision when a car swerves off the road or into a guardrail, tree, or building
- A two or multi-vehicle accident when a car swerves to avoid debris
- A multi-vehicle accident when a car swerves across a median into oncoming traffic
- A rear-end collision when a car brakes suddenly
- A pile-up when a vehicle stalls on a piece of debris
- A side-impact collision when a vehicle is knocked sideways by debris
- A rollover accident when a vehicle hits a large object at high speed
And the following injuries are ones most likely to result from a debris-caused accident:
- Traumatic injuries and fatalities when a heavy object enters through the windshield
- Lacerations and other injuries when a sharp objects cuts through the vehicle
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) when motorcyclists are not wearing helmets
- Pedestrian injuries and deaths when a drivers loses control of a vehicle
- Injuries resulting from deployed airbags
- Injuries from collisions with other vehicles, including head, neck, spine, brain, and nerve damage
- Disfigurement and permanent scarring
- Wrongful death in serious accidents
If you have been involved in a highway accident caused by road debris, it may be in your best interests to reach out to a car accident attorney with experience in complicated vehicular collision cases. There can be even more serious repercussions when a large commercial truck is involved, so be sure to contact a lawyer practiced in this area of the law if your situation involves a negligent commercial vehicle driver.
Protect Yourself and Your Car from Road Debris Damage
Drivers who operate poorly-maintained vehicles in danger of breaking down, and drivers who carry unsecured loads, are some of the most dangerous types of drivers encountered on the road. As we have seen, the majority of road debris accidents happen because one party was negligent in the way they handled their vehicle or the load it was carrying.
The AAA makes recommendations to help drivers avoid causing or being involved in a road debris crash. Good vehicle maintenance is one of the first steps in basic auto safety. When maintaining your vehicle, remember that:
- Underinflated, overinflated, and worn tires can blow out and cause a flying debris accident
- Rusted hardware can fall off and hit another vehicle
- Loose parts and dragging mufflers and fenders are hazardous
- Regular auto maintenance can save lives
In the case that you are moving or towing objects, make sure every item is properly secured. Before beginning the drive, not matter how short, be sure to tie down the load securely, cover it with a tarp or net, and check for any loose pieces. Be careful to distribute weight as evenly as possible and don’t overload the vehicle. If you are towing a trailer, double check the hitch to make sure it is properly attached. If you notice any objects moving while you are driving, pull over and fix the problem immediately.
If you are a driver sharing the road with a vehicle towing or carrying a potentially-dangerous load, exercise extreme caution. Give the other vehicle plenty of space and do not tailgate. Motorcyclists should be especially careful to avoid hazardous load-bearing vehicles. And if you have children in the car, make sure you are following all Kentucky car seat safety guidelines to protect everyone in your vehicle in case of an accident. Keep a sharp eye out for falling or flying debris. It’s recommended that you continue to visually sweep the road at least 12 to 15 seconds in front of your vehicle when watching for debris.
Finally, if you do see that a piece of debris has fallen into the roadway, do all that you can to avoid sudden braking and swerving. While it is a natural instinct to do so, this reaction can lead to collisions with other vehicles on the road around you. As safely as possible, reduce your vehicle’s speed before making contact, and steer gently out of the path of the object when possible.
There are many cases in which a collision is unavoidable. You may have no way of stopping or preventing a debris accident caused by another driver’s negligence. If you have found yourself in this situation, we invite you to reach out to our office for legal help. We will meet with you to discuss your case and how the Law of Office of Todd. W. Burris may be able to help you recover after an accident. An initial consultation to see if our legal team is the right fit for your case is always free to you.