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Highway Patrol reminds drivers to be on the lookout for road debris

There's a very good chance that as you've made your way through Florida's many miles of highway that you've seen -- or even narrowly avoided -- pieces of rubber from blown tires lying on the blacktop. While you probably didn't give much thought to it, what if you had encountered a barbeque, toilet, kitchen sink or even a sofa?

While this may seem like an impossibility, officials with the Florida Highway Patrol have indicated that all of these items -- plus even more unconventional and unbelievable items -- have all littered the roadways of the Sunshine State in recent years.

Not surprisingly, road debris of any kind can prove to be very dangerous as motorists can accidentally strike other vehicles while attempting to avoid the object in the road or simply lose control of their vehicles due to the sheer force of the collision with the object.

As problematic as road debris can be, authorities say that falling debris -- meaning those instances where people fail to properly secure their cargo -- can prove to be much worse, frequently causing fatal motor vehicle accidents.

Just a few weeks ago, troopers responded to a horrific accident in Seminole County in which a couple riding on a motorcycle was struck and killed by a large spool of electrical wire that fell from the back of a passing truck.

Indeed, statistics from the Highway Patrol show that Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties saw 254 motor vehicle accidents caused by falling debris from 2011 to 2013.

It is worth noting that Florida law dictates that all motorists must secure any and all items being hauled in the open air with tarps, tie-downs or other cover that is "designed to reasonably ensure that cargo will not shift upon or fall from the vehicle."

Those who are involved in an accident involving serious personal injuries or death caused by debris that fell directly from their vehicle can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor (even if they didn't actually load the vehicle).

Fortunately, experts indicate that there are a few simple steps that motorists can take to protect themselves from both falling debris and road debris: 1) maintain a sufficient distance from the car ahead so you have time to take evasive action, 2) avoid driving directly alongside another car so that you have the ability to change lanes quickly, and 3) scan the horizon regularly to watch for roadway obstructions.

If you have lost a loved one in a car accident caused by the reckless or negligent actions of another here in Florida, consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about your options.

Source: The Orlando Sentinel, "Debris in road, or on trucks, can spell disaster for drivers," David Breen, Feb. 19, 2014

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