PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Target 12 Investigators have learned that the number of drivers cited for carrying unsecured loads has more than doubled in Rhode Island over the last four years, creating an increased safety risk on local roads.
Peter and Lynne DeMasi were involved in a crash after swerving to avoid branches on the 6-10 Connector in Providence.
The DeMasis were not seriously injured, but unsecured loads can have fatal consequences. Last week, 59-year-old Dennis Pavao was charged with motor vehicle homicide in connection with a deadly crash in Somerset back in February. Police said 55-year-old Philip Imprescia of Fall River was killed after his vehicle struck a filing cabinet that fell from Pavao’s truck onto I-195.
Rhode Island State Police Lt. Michael Rosa said he’s personally responded to several crashes involving road debris and unsecured loads.
“They’re very common, unfortunately,”he said.
According to a AAA study, road debris was involved in more than 200,000 crashes in the U.S. from 2011 through 2014, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.
While there is no state-by-state breakdown of road debris-related crashes, the Target 12 Investigators dug up information through the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and found that 135 people were cited for driving with unsecured loads last year, up from just 62 violations in 2011.
Target 12 hit the road for a first-hand look at the problem. Within a few hours of driving, our cameras spotted the following debris on the side of Rhode Island roadways:
- a recycling bin
- a trailer hitch
- two laundry baskets
- two mufflers
- two kiddie pools
- several traffic cones
- several tires
We also spotted trucks loaded with branches and even a mattress hanging out the back, apparently unsecured.
State police said there are several things drivers can do to protect themselves from the threat of road debris.
“The main thing is preventative measures,” Lt. Rosa suggested. “Going the speed limit, staying the proper distance away from the vehicle, and giving the road your full attention will help you tremendously.”
Police suggest that for every ten miles per hour you are driving, you should keep a full car length between you and the vehicle in front of you. For example, if you are going 50 miles per hour, you should be at least five car lengths behind the closest vehicle.
“That just gives you more distance between the vehicle and more time to react,” Lt. Rosa explained.
It is also important, according to Lt. Rosa, to remain calm behind the wheel if you encounter debris in the road.
“You don’t want to jerk the wheel hard because you’re going to transfer the weight abruptly and you’re going to cause it to go out of control,” he said.
And police say you should never speed up to unsafe speeds to get around a truck with an unsecured load.
In both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, drivers are required by law to secure loose cargo with a cover and straps. In Rhode Island, the penalty for a first offense is a $100. Subsequent offenses carry a fine of up to $500.
You can report dangerous debris or unsecured loads to police by dialing *77.