Every year, there are 1,000 debris-related crashes throughout Arizona, killing an average of 13 people and seriously injuring 22.
On June 6, 2006, Mattew Reif was one of them. A piece of metal fell off a truck or got kicked up from the road, and it went through his windshield, severing the main artery in his heart.
"You never get it back," said his father, Paul Reif, referring to time with his son Matthew. "He was just an innocent person minding his own business driving along the road."
June 6 is “Secure Your Load Day” in Arizona, an effort to educate drivers to prevent these kinds of crashes.
"Road debris is the kind of thing that can be cured. All you need to do is tie your stuff down," Reif said.
Here are five things to keep in mind:
- Tie it down: Secure large or heavy items with solid straps, rope, bungee cords or netting. Small string is not strong enough. When you are traveling at 60-70 miles per hour, the wind can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure per square foot on your load, pushing it right off your vehicle.
- Cover it up: Loose items should be firmly covered with a tarp or netting
- Lighter goes lower: Put lighter items below heavier items and evenly distribute the load.
- Don't overload: Keep material level with the truck bed or trailer unless tied down.
- Double check: Ask yourself, is this roadworthy?
The Department of Public Safety says if you see debris on any freeway, it is considered an emergency, and they encourage you to call 911 immediately.
DPS said troopers have written 139 citations, 172 warnings and three repair orders so far in 2018.
Violators could be charged with a class two misdemeanor and the fines, plus court costs, can range from $460 to well over $1,000, depending on injuries.