During the summer, my husband and I often take day trips. We like to smile and pass a carefree moment together. We look for burger joints and antique shops.
Last summer on one of our trips, we were reminded how flying debris and an unsecured load can raise safety risks. We stopped at a convenience store in a nearby small town, just off a four-lane divided highway. As we were leaving, a pickup truck pulling an all-terrain vehicle on a flatbed trailer drove by. As the truck passed us, the ATV slid off the trailer and rolled backwards into traffic.
We could see cars approaching. We pulled our pickup into the lane occupied by the ATV as it rolled to a stop, and we turned on our flashing lights. We helped the young man load his ATV back on his trailer. He had no straps on the ATV and only applied the brake to attempt to keep it from rolling. My husband spoke to him about how to use straps to secure his load. More pointedly, my husband suggested his next stop should be the nearest hardware outlet. This incident ended well, but that’s not always the case.
I wanted to share my story as we move closer to National Secure Your Load Day on Monday, June 6. The day is a celebration of Washington resident Robin Abel and so many others who have worked to raise awareness of safety risks associated with flying debris and unsecured loads. Robin’s daughter was nearly killed when a piece of particleboard escaped from the back of a rented trailer and broke her windshield. Her face was severely injured and she was blinded in the crash, but she survived and is a grown woman now.
In the days, months and years that followed, Robin dedicated herself to a mission of safety. She worked in support of laws addressing risks of unsecured loads. In 2015, she received a road safety award for public service at the national Lifesavers Conference in Chicago. Today, she is recognized as a safety hero.
At her website, Secure Your Load, you will find a ready-made safety talk you can use the next time you pull your team together. You can post her safety tips on your bulletin board or share the tips in a digital safety communication:
- Tie down your load with rope, netting or straps
- Tie large objects directly to your vehicle or trailer
- Consider covering the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting
- Don’t overload your vehicle or trailer
- Don’t forget to secure livestock
These tips are timely now because June, July and August are the busiest moving months in the U.S., according to Moving Labor. These are also typically big months for do-it-yourselfers and garage sale enthusiasts. How many times have you seen a mattress flapping on the vehicle in front of you, about to go sailing off in the breeze? And what about how high some people stack boxes or lumber on the back of their flatbed?
Abel will tell you this:
- A 20-pound object moving at 55-mph carries with it a force of 1,000 pounds on impact
- Unsecured loads are responsible for about 40% of the litter on U.S. roads, and cleanup costs climb into the billions every year
Through your continuing education efforts, you can help prevent mishaps before they happen. Hopefully, we can all enjoy summer days bumming around the countryside without incident.
We often think about our experience last summer and wonder, “Did an ATV really drop in the road right in front us?” Yes, it did. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
– DeAnn Crane is a program manager with the National Safety Council