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10 Things That Can Inadvertently Become Debris

Taking the highway on a road trip is supposed to be exciting.  Drive for long enough, it will becoming challenging.  Debris can make things even more challenging.

Someone needs to go to the bathroom???  Either wait 45 minutes for the next restroom facility, or there’s the side of the road.

“We’re lost!”

“How much is it exactly to take this toll road???  And why are there no gas stations along here?”

While all that is annoying, it doesn’t really compare  to potentially life-threatening road hazard.  According to AAA, road hazards contribute to 25,000 accidents per year in the United States.

By Xwizard35 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

To be a more safe fellow traveler, here are ten items you will need to watch out for, or if you’re carrying them, further secure in order to make the road safe for you and everyone around you.

1.) Ladders

Ladders tend to slide around a lot on vehicles, either on a rack or in the back of a truck.  They travel well in the back of a truck, if the legs of the ladder are nearest the cab and the top of the ladder is on the unopened tailgate.  If it’s a lightweight aluminum ladder, it’s a very good idea to tie it down to the truck with a rope.

On a rack, ratchet straps are your best bet to secure a ladder.  This video provides an excellent demonstration on securing, tightening, then loosening the strap.

With these straps, on a long or windy trip, it doesn’t hurt to stop periodically to check tension on the strap.  Hit the strap lightly with your hand.  If it’s still firm, you’re good to go.  If it seems loose, tighten using the ratchet mechanism.

2.) Lumber

Much with ladders, lumber can slide around.  Ratchet straps also work well with wood.

If you’re transporting 2x4s, or planks, and they’re under 8′ in length, those can usually fit in your car by simply folding down the passenger and back seats.  If they don’t fit all the way, the can stick out of the back of your trunk or hatchback.  Tie down your hatchback or trunk by using the method shown in the video below.

If lumber extrudes beyond the back bumper of your car, secure a red flag or cloth to the end of the wood.  This is in order to keep other drivers from rear-ending it, or pedestrians from walking into it by providing increased visibility.  This is most likely required by law in your jurisdiction.

Wood weight adds up quickly.  Be sure to not overload the capacity of your roof rack.  Roof racks should have a maximum load capacity listed on it.

3.) Furniture

We’ve all seen this one before.  Even one that comes off once the wind get ahold of it at a high rate of speed.

The key to to secure it in the front of the car to where wind cannot get beneath it enough to lift it.

4.) Buckets

Buckets can often be found in the road, both intact and in pieces, crushed or damaged by a vehicle.

Tie down the bucket to a pin in the bed of your truck, or fill it a quarter of the way full with objects heavy enough to hold the bucket down.

This will keep wind from getting into the bucket and possibly blowing it out of the truck.

5.) Lightweight Projectiles

Smaller items such as can end up in the road, falling off of other vehicles.

These items can cause drivers to swerve, slam into other cars, flip, even cause a large chain-reaction, multi-car pileup.


6.) Bags of Garbage

If you live in an apartment complex, you may have a long walk to the dumpster.  It’s tempting to throw your bag of garbage on the trunk of your car and drive it slowly to the dumpster.  But sometimes, you forget all about it and it ends up falling off.  It hits the road, the bag shatters, cars hit what’s left, and there ends up being a mile-long string of garbage along the road.

If at all possible, walk the garbage to the dumpster.  Other ways to take it by car is to hang the drawstring from your mirror, or if it’s a small bag, put it on the hood of your car in a place where you can still safely see.

7.) Nails and sharp objects

They can flatten your tire.  They can crack or even penetrate your windshield if large enough.

Contain these items either beneath a tarp or, if you have nails, put them in a jar where they cannot spill.

8.) Small and heavy objects

Small and heavy items would consist of things like pipe fittings or a baseball.  These are small enough to not be seen easily, yet can get kicked up at high speeds and end up in windows.

Keep these in the lower part of the truck bed, in a bucket, or inside of the truck.

9.) Parts of your own car or truck

Parts such as hub caps, license plates, and trim can come off your car if they become unattached to the vehicle.  They can come unattached, and screws can reverse themselves with vibration.  For hub caps, pull on them lightly on a periodic basis.  If loose, tighten them.

This video will show you how to secure hubcaps as a temporary measure, until you can get to a tire shop.

A popular and dangerous sight along highways are pieces of tire from a tractor trailer, which has experienced a blowout.  These pieces are sometimes called “tire gators,” because they look like alligators in the road, and contain many small wires that become dangerously sharp.  Avoid running into these.

These are caused by tractor trailers sometimes using retreaded tires, which can lead to increased risk of blowout.  Retreads are legal on the rear wheels, but illegal on front wheels (the wheels that can be steered to the left or right).

10.) Shrinkwrap

Shrinkwrap is a tricky one.  What happens is large pallets and their contents are often shrinkwrapped to keep parts from falling out.  The vast majority of the time, this works perfectly.  However, if the end of the shrinkwrap isn’t secured with packing tape, a gust of wind can cause it to become detached.  The shrinkwrap will slowly unravel and will cause a long stream of it to follow the vehicle.

I saw this once on Interstate 75 in Sarasota County.  A flatbed trailer didn’t have its load shrinkwrapped well enough, more and more of it followed the bed of the truck.  A highway patrolman saw it, and pulled the driver over.

The main concern here is potential for no visibility to other drivers.  People can also run over the shrinkwrap from behind and pull the load, causing it to fall off.

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4 thoughts on “10 Things That Can Inadvertently Become Debris

  1. Section five says this:

    Smaller items such as can end up in the road, falling off of other vehicles.

    Such as what?

    1. Hi, El.

      Examples that come to mind of smaller items can be anything from rocks, to cans and bottles, to tools.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. You forgot the road hazard I see the most on freeways – debris from separated retreaded truck tires.

    1. Hi CPZ, thanks for reading the article.

      I did mention those pesky tire pieces, or “tire gators”, in item No. 9. They are definitely bad.

      Thanks again,

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