Yesterday’s post about stray tires causing car wrecks made me think back to my own youth. On the last day of school of my junior year of high school, I was driving south on I-35 between Austin and San Marcos. It was raining pretty heavily so I was trying to drive fairly cautiously, but I was stuck behind a large cattle trailer. An object flew out of the truck and came toward my car. I hit my brakes, started hydroplaning, and slid across three lanes of traffic and hit a shrub in the median. That shrub probably kept me from going into oncoming traffic and potentially dying.
My story is not an uncommon one for those of us that practice personal injury litigation. Countless people are injured each year by drivers failing to properly secure the objects that they are carrying. Texas, like most other states, has a law (in Texas, the law is Transportation Code section 725.001 et seq) that makes it a misdemeanor for a driver to not secure a load. The code is a little convoluted, but the Texas Driver’s Handbook summary of the law is fairly straightforward:
TRANSPORTING CARGO AND MATERIALS
In order to prevent cargo or loose materials from falling or spilling from a vehicle car, truck, trailer, etc. onto the roadway and possibly causing accidents or damage to the roads, state law requires that drivers comply with certain requirements.
State law mandates that no person shall load or transport any loose material on or over the public highways, such as dirt, sand, gravel, wood chips, or other material (except agricultural products in their natural state), that is capable of blowing or spilling from a vehicle unless:
(1) the bed carrying the load must be completely enclosed on both sides and on the front and on the rear by a tailgate, board or panel, and all must be so constructed as to prevent the escape of any
part of the load by blowing or spilling; and
(2) the top of the load must be covered with a canvas, tarpaulin, or other covering firmly secured to the front and back to prevent the escape of the load because of blowing or spilling. This requirement does not apply to any load-carrying compartment that completely encloses the load or to the transporting of any load of loose materials that are not blowing or spilling over the top of the load-carrying compartment.
Unfortunately, the penalty for violating the statute is a maximum fine of $500. I don’t think that’s much of an incentive to take the extra time necessary to protect the lives of other drivers.