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MAG News

Secure Your Load Day reminder: Road debris often a matter of life and death.


See road debris? It's okay to call 9-1-1. That is the critical message to drivers as Arizona recognizes Arizona Secure Your Load Day for the third straight year.

"Most of us have experienced a scary moment on a freeway when suddenly a ladder or mattress appears on the road in front of our car," says Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Chair Gail Barney, mayor of Queen Creek. "Arizonans need to know it is okay to call 9-1-1 if that happens."

Nationwide, there are about 51,000 debris-related accidents every year, resulting in 10,000 injuries. In Arizona, DPS responded to more than 1,000 debris-related collisions on state highways last year. The Maricopa region has averaged more than 700 debris-related crashes (all roadways) over the past five years, resulting in 12 fatalities. Yet state agencies find that many drivers are reluctant to call 9-1-1, often using more passive means to report dangerous debris.

"Don't tweet. Don't text. Don't even call the ADOT customer-service line. If you see road debris, consider it an emergency and call 9-1-1, because someone's life just may depend on it," says Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Director John Halikowski.

Governor Doug Ducey has proclaimed June 6, 2019, as Arizona Secure Your Load Day to raise awareness about the potentially catastrophic dangers of loose debris and unsecured loads. The proclamation comes at the request of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, ADOT, the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Don't Trash Arizona program run by MAG, and most importantly, the families of loved ones killed or injured by dangerous debris.

"Even if you see something like a flat board or small piece of metal, call 9-1-1, because it can get kicked up and pierce through a windshield. That's how Matthew died," says Paul Reif, whose 29-year-old son was killed while driving on Hunt Highway on June 6, 2006. "Calling 9-1-1 could save someone else's son."

While nearly every state across the nation recognized Secure Your Load Day in some form on June 6, it is the tragic tie to Paul's loss that led to the selection of June 6. “If our story reminds drivers to take just five minutes to tie down their loads properly, we might prevent other parents from experiencing our pain," Reif says.

Unsecured loads not only pose a danger to drivers, they also can create traffic congestion, which can cause secondary collisions, putting the lives of troopers and first responders at risk.

"'Secure your load' is not a one-day message," says DPS Director Colonel Frank Milstead. "It is every day, every commute, every load. It can't be overstated: This is a matter of life and death. If you are hauling a load, please take the extra few minutes to tie it down and prevent a tragedy."

Published June 7, 2019