Road debris is causing damage, crashes, injuries and deaths


Joey Azbik showed me where tire treads from 18-wheelers damaged his car, not once, but twice.

His car was less than two months old the first time he hit a big hunk of rubber. That’s after another car sent the tire tread flying.

“I pulled over on the side of the road and saw the hunk of bumper gone out of it,” said Azbik. “It kind of broke my heart a little bit. Felt like I had a used car at that point because I had damage to it.”

Road debris caused $3,700 damage to Azbik’s car

Azbik works in health care. He drives roundtrip from Hoover to Tuscaloosa each weekday. Both collisions with truck tire retreads occurred on Interstate 20/59. His repair bills totaled $3,700. And if that’s not bad enough, the value of his car has declined too.

“It upsets you because if you maintain the value, the next car is not going to cost you as much,” said Azbik.

State Farm Agent Tim Johns is Azbik’s insurance agent. He says the nation's largest insurer handles claims for road debris on a regular basis, including that time a client hit some furniture on I-65.

“We had in the past someone who hit a love seat that had fallen off the vehicle in front of them,” said Johns. “It was on the side of the road and did some really significant damage because it was such a big piece.”

Crashes, injuries, and deaths

According to the AAA Foundation, more than 200,000 crashes have been blamed on debris on U.S. roadways during a recent four-year period. Those accidents resulted in 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths

More than a third of the deaths occurred when drivers swerved to avoid hitting the debris.

Clay Ingram heads up PR and marketing for AAA Alabama. He showed us the damage that some metal did to his car when he was driving. He says swerving to avoid road debris is the worst choice you can make.

“It just makes a bad situation worse,” said Ingram. “Especially on the interstates and on the highway when you’re traveling at a pretty high rate of speed. It’s very easy to lose control of your vehicle.”

Azbik uses the Waze app to warn him about road debris

After two collisions with tire treads, Azbik uses Waze, the free traffic app, to warn him about road debris. Azbik says drivers post on the app if there’s a potentially dangerous object on the road.

He also keeps an eye out for small pieces of tire tread on the interstate—because he knows there’s a big piece nearby that could really damage his car.

His strategy seems to be working. He hasn’t collided with road debris in three years.

“I don’t know if it’s luck or being in the 'right' lane,” said Azbik. “I feel like I’ve been in the 'right' lane here lately because I’ve seen other people hit them in the road also.”

AAA says most road debris crashes are the result of items falling from a car or truck, such as tires and wheels.

Improper maintenance or unsecured loads are usually to blame.

What to remember when you haul things

According to AAA, be sure to have your car checked by trained mechanics on a regular basis.

  • If you’re moving items, tie them down with rope or straps.
  • Be sure to tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer.
  • Be sure to cover the entire load with a tarp that you fasten down.
  • Make sure everything is secure before driving.

Otherwise that dining room set, that’s been in the family for decades, is going to wind up on the road.

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