ATLANTA - A New Year's Eve crash and subsequent traffic jam just north of the Georgia 400 toll booths provided a reminder of how dangerous heavy roadway debris can be when falling from a truck with an unsecured load. 

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, heavy debris fallen from a truck caused damage to several vehicles traveling behind on Georgia State Route 400. One car was struck by debris that went through the windshield and hit a passenger in the head, Sandy Springs Police Lt. Steve Rose told the newspaper. The victim was transported to North Fulton Hospital and was expected to recover. 

The debris appeared to be tools or utility clamps, police said. The crash occurred just after 6 p.m. on Dec. 31. Police have been unable to locate the truck carrying the unsecured load. During the cleanup, authorities closed all northbound lanes of Georgia 400 in the stretch of highway involved.

A 2004 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that debris unintentionally discharged from vehicles onto the roadway causes over 25,000 crashes per year in North America, resulting in approximately 80-90 fatalities.

"Although vehicle-related road debris (VRRD) crashes are generally less severe than other crashes, individual incidents can be catastrophic," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Moreover, many of the estimated 25,000 VRRD crashes can be prevented if truckers and motorists secure their loads properly and report debris that they encounter on the road."

The report recommended several low-cost educational and enforcement approaches as potential countermeasures to prevent such crashes and to reduce crash severity when they occur:

  • Educating motorists on securing loads and reporting unsafe vehicles, unsecured loads, and road debris
  • Educating motorists on defensive driving, especially around trucks in the event of wheel and tire separations
  • Educating fleet maintenance personnel on preventing wheel separations
  • Training commercial vehicle drivers to periodically inspect their vehicles and cargo
  • Training enforcement officials in vehicle safety and securing loads
  • Targeting specific groups for enforcement (e.g., waste haulers, landscapers)
  • Enacting stricter laws on securing loads.