BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WBMA) - Alarming incidents of loose loads being hauled on interstates and highways put drivers at risk. From couches and mattresses to ladders and boards, dangerous road debris is a hazard on high speed interstates.
A Jefferson County man shared his frightening experience with the I-Team. "It was just a big boom," recalls Mark Vincent as he approached an exit on I-59 near Springville earlier this month. He never saw a giant piece of wood coming when it crashed into his windshield. It deflected off the front hood, into the glass before landing in the back of his truck.
"I didn't feel any effects. But once I got off the road and saw where it came and hit, I realized how lucky I am," said Vincent. He believes judging by the type of wood it came off an 18 wheeler. That driver likely had no idea it came off.
Over at Cahaba Glass in Pelham they're seeing a log of cracked, chipped and busted windshields lately. "We're slammed to the walls," remarked JR Sciandra. He says the problem isn't just from objects falling off vehicles, but also small rocks from road construction. Even a small bolt can do damage.
Compounding the problem is a glass shortage. "We have 50 windshields on back order," explained Sciandra.
In many cases he advises there is no getting around a repair. If the chip or crack is in the driver's line of sight you could get a ticket if it's not fixed.
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According to AAA, dangerous debris causes 125 deaths nationwide a year, ten thousand injuries, and is a factor in 50,000 crashes.
More than a third of those crashes occur between 10am and 4pm. AAA Alabama Public Relations and Marketing Manager Clay Ingram says the interstates are the biggest problem due to the higher speeds. He explains it is usually on you to pay for any damages unless you actually see the object fly off a vehicle. "It's very difficult to prove," says Ingram.
Best advice, stay alert on the road and stay away from potential trouble. Your first reaction to swerve can be very dangerous. "Swerving is a big problem. More than a third of the deaths are people swerving to miss something," explains Ingram.
Road debris is a hazard so don't hesitate to call 911 if you see it. Mark Vincent urges drivers to make sure their load is locked down.
ALDOT says the most common items to fall off vehicles are ladders, tires, mattresses, scrap metal and wood pallets.
"ALDOT spends $7 million annually on litter pickup and sweeping statewide. Just over $1 million of that is spent in Jefferson County. ALDOT pays for litter pick up and sweeping services by the mile. In the ALDOT Birmingham Area (Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Blount counties), we have seen a 1.2 percent increase in litter pick up and sweeping costs from Fiscal Year 2020 to Fiscal Year 2021. Statewide, costs were up less than one percent."