Instead of answering a question this week, I have a question for you: Can you name an event that happened on June 6?
Depending on your interest in history, you might answer that it was the day of the Great Seattle Fire in 1989 – a memorable event in Northwest history. (In naming it “great,” I’m sure they meant big as opposed to better-than-good.) Or you may bring up D-Day in 1944, a day that altered the outcome of World War II. The classic rock fans might remember that June 6 of 1965 is the day the Rolling Stones released “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” an anthem for a generation (or two).
You probably won’t guess that in 2016 the US Department of Transportation (and Washington’s DOT) declared June 6 to be “Secure Your Load Day.” While the day hasn’t yet made it on to most holiday calendars, it is a good reminder of the dangers of an unsecured load.
How did Secure Your Load Day become an event?
Here’s a little history: Prior to 2005, Washington didn’t have a law that addressed unsecured loads. The driving force behind creating the law was Robin Abel, a mother who nearly lost her daughter Maria to a crash caused by an unsecured load. In 2004 Maria was driving from Seattle to Renton on Interstate 405, when an entertainment center fell out of the U-Haul trailer in front of her. A shelf bounced up and through her windshield, nearly killing her and permanently blinding her. When law enforcement found the driver who was towing the trailer, the only enforcement action they could take was a ticket for littering.
Robin, in addition to caring for her daughter, worked to create the law we currently have; a law that makes it an infraction to drive with an unsecured load, and a crime if an unsecured load causes property damage or injury.
Robin didn’t stop once the state enacted the law; she went national with her cause. Along with getting the issue of unsecured loads addressed in a national transportation bill, she was part of the effort of establishing Secure Your Load Day.
The results of an unsecured load can clearly be disastrous, but how big is the scope of the problem?
A study conducted by AAA covering the years 2011-14 found that 200,000 crashes were caused by road debris deposited by vehicles, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths. The additional tragedy is that these crashes could have been prevented if drivers had taken a few moments to make sure they properly secured what they were hauling.
The Washington DOT has some recommendations on how to properly secure a load:
▪ Use straps, tarps or strong netting – not twine – to firmly secure loads to your vehicle.
▪ The “cram” technique isn’t enough – tightly packed loads can still come loose unless they’re tied down.
▪ Double check that everything is tied down securely before heading out.
▪ Speak up. If you see a friend, neighbor or family member with an unsecure load, talk to them about the safety risks.
It’s unlikely that Secure Your Load Day will ever reach the status of some of the other historic events of June 6, but by making sure that anything you haul is locked down before you leave, you’ll guarantee that your cargo doesn’t create a tragic day of remembrance for another family. In the words of Robin Abel, “Secure your load as if everyone you love is driving in the vehicle behind you.”
Road Rules is a regular column on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. Doug Dahl is the Target Zero Manager for the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. Target Zero is Washington’s vision to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. For more traffic safety information visit TheWiseDrive.com. Ask a question.