Time might be money, but taking an extra five minutes to secure and cover a load you’re transporting across AZ roads can save lives. Unfortunately, it’s too late for this advice to save Matthew Reif, who was killed in 2006 when a piece of scrap metal flew through his windshield and into his chest. It’s not too late to save others.

Highway debris is a bigger problem than you think

According to Don’t Trash Arizona, more than 850,000 pounds of litter get picked up from Valley freeways each year. A significant portion of that trash is made up of debris that flies out of vehicles transporting unsecured loads.

Local clean-up crews from the Department of Public Safety find everything you can imagine on the roadways like mattresses, couches, chairs, carpet remnants, coffee tables, refrigerators, ladders, gardening tools, and camping equipment.

Each time you fail to secure and cover a load, no matter how short of a distance you’re traveling, you put people’s lives at risk. Debris can fly through the windshields of innocent drivers at a dangerously high velocity. In 2010 flying debris caused 440 deaths and 10,000 injuries in a total of more than 51,000 incidents. That’s just in Arizona. 

Prevent tragedy and fines – secure and cover every load

It only takes a few minutes and less than twenty bucks to comply with this law. You can get a lightweight tarp for under fifteen bucks. A few more bucks will get you some rope, and it will take you five minutes to tie it all down. If that’s all it takes to prevent tragedy, it’s worth the effort. It’s also required by law.

Arizona drivers are required to secure and cover all loads regardless of what’s being transporting. As stated in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 28-1098, “A person shall not drive or move a vehicle on a highway unless the vehicle is constructed or loaded in a manner to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking or otherwise escaping from the vehicle.” And, “A person shall not operate a vehicle on a highway with a load unless the load and any covering on the load are securely fastened in a manner to prevent the covering or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manner a hazard to other users of the highway.”

Failure to comply with this law can result in fines regardless of whether someone gets hurt.

Violations come with hefty fines

A driver’s first violation within sixty months is subject to a civil penalty up to $250 if no damages or injury are caused. If an unsecured load causes an accident with serious physical injury, the driver is liable for up to $500. If an accident results in someone’s death, the driver of the unsecured load is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. That doesn’t include lawsuits that might be filed by the family of the person killed.

It’s not just the local police department that can penalize you for hauling an unsafe load. Depending on where you’re taking your load, you might get fined for delivering an unsafe load.

Unsecured, uncovered loads are penalized at some local dumps

In an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on Arizona roadways, local dumps have enacted policies that double the dump fees for vehicles with unsecured, uncovered loads. For example, the Santa Cruz County Solid Waste Division charges double for all customers who bring in unsafe loads not tied down or covered with tarps, nets, or ropes. They also want all customers to refrain from leaving the tailgate of their trucks down during transport.

Do the right thing

It’s hard to believe anyone likes taking a trip to the dump or hauling large loads, but that’s no excuse for taking shortcuts. Anything that flies off of your vehicle onto the highway becomes a major road hazard – even a plastic bag can land on someone’s windshield and obstruct their view. No load is worth transporting unsecured when people’s lives are at stake. It’s time to be responsible, not because it’s the law, but because it’s the right thing to do.