Newsroom | A Few Extra Minutes Can Prevent a Tragedy That Lasts a Lifetime

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Secure Your Load Day spotlights the dangers of unsecured loads. Learn what’s at stake and how to properly secure your load to keep you, your family, and others safe on Arizona roads.

Secure Your Load Day spotlights dangers of unsecured loads in important safety message

Don't Trash Arizona

In a four-year stretch from 2018 to 2022, 32 people died on Arizona highways due to unsecured loads. In 2022 alone, there were 1,100 crashes and nine fatalities related to dangerous debris throughout our state. The national statistics are equally sobering: In 2022, there were nearly 900 deaths, more than 17,000 injuries, and over 68,000 property damage-only crashes. 

Crashes Due to Debris 2018-2022 Arizona and Maricopa County

Mayor Eric OrsbornAll of these crashes could have been prevented if drivers had just taken a few minutes to properly secure or maintain their vehicles. 

“A few extra minutes of preparation can prevent a lifetime of regret caused by a debris-related collision,” said Buckeye Mayor Eric Orsborn, chair of the Transportation Policy Committee at a recent news conference highlighting debris dangers. “These crashes are preventable by securing your load and properly maintaining your vehicle.” 

Deadly Piece of Metal One Foot Long, One Inch Wide 

Governor Katie Hobbs proclaimed June 6 Arizona Secure Your Load Day, in keeping with a national observance. Held on the same date each year, the day holds heart-wrenching significance for Paul Reif, an Arizona father. On June 6, 2006, his 29-year-old son Matthew lost his life due to an unsecured load. 

Paul ReifSince then, Reif has been tirelessly advocating for the importance of securing vehicle loads, and his efforts led to the national recognition of Secure Your Load Day.

“He left his job early that day to take his dog to the vet. Unfortunately, a piece of metal that was only one foot long and one inch wide went right through the windshield and right through my son’s heart,” said Reif. “No one should have to experience the senselessness of losing someone to an unsecured load. Secure your load as if everyone you love is in the car behind you.”

Statewide Effort

Each year, state and regional agencies host a news conference to remind drivers to ensure their vehicle is safe before setting out on the highway. This year’s event included a video demonstration with tips on how to properly tie down or cover a load. 

Jesse Torrez, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway SafetyJesse Torrez, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, knows firsthand how dangerous debris in the roadway can be. He had his own encounters with debris while serving as a state highway patrolman. 

“We can all do better at securing our loads and the things that may fly out of our vehicles, whether it is in the back of a pickup truck or on top of cars,” Torrez said.

Mattresses Can Be Dangerous – To Motorists and to the Troopers Who Remove Them

Lieutenant Colonel Deston ColemanLieutenant Colonel Deston Coleman, head of the Highway Patrol Division for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said more than 600 drivers were stopped for unsecured loads on state highways in 2023 alone, and more than 200 so far this year.

“The dangers to motorists are substantial, and there is an additional threat to first responders and highway workers when they have to enter traffic to remove the items. These risks are completely preventable,” said Coleman.

“You have no idea how much sharp metal is in a mattress when it has been run over,” said DPS Seargent Eric Andrews. “I have been cut by it, and I know plenty of other troopers have as well.”

ADOT Director Brent Cain Arizona Department of Transportation Director of Transportation Systems Management and Operations Brent Cain said ADOT is often amazed at the objects that end up on the freeway.

“We often remove extremely large items such as furniture, refrigerators, even hot tubs and toilets,” said Cain. “Items that tumble onto freeways can severely damage vehicles that are moving at freeway speeds and can be deadly for the people in those vehicles."

Collection of debris off highways

Maintenance activities like litter sweeping and pickup are funded through the dedicated half-cent sales tax for transportation, which will expire in 2025 unless funding is extended in November.

Published June 13, 2024