HOUSTON – It is a high-speed, highly dangerous, highway nightmare. We’re talking about road debris, items falling off other vehicles on the road and then flying directly into your path, into your car, and maybe into your windshield.
“It’s an object that’s traveling 65 to 70 miles an hour, and it’s headed straight for you. Whether it’s a mattress coming off the roof of a car, a bunch of boards or maybe it’s a couch or a chair traveling at that speed, it can severely damage your car and maybe even kill you,” said Sgt. Richard Standifer with the Department of Public Safety.
Stuart Roy, a loving father with two daughters, lived out this nightmare when a six-foot pitchfork fell off of a lumber truck and rocketed straight at his car.
The pitchfork came crashing through his windshield, aimed directly at his head.
Luckily, one of the prongs hit the roof of his car, which stopped the rest of the pitchfork from taking Stuart’s head off.
“I was going 50 or 60 miles an hour one way, the truck was going the same speed the other way. When the pitchfork came loose and hit me, hit my windshield, it shattered it. The forks came through the windshield and past the steering wheel, stopping maybe 16 to 18 inches from my head,” Stuart said.
Shelby Colley of Brenham was traveling home from Costco on 290 with her three kids in the car when a 3-foot piece of solid steel came barreling through the air, slicing its way right through the front of her SUV.
“It absolutely looked like a sword was flying toward us. It was so close to the window, it could have been through the windshield. It could have gone through the kids’ window,” Shelby said.
According to TXDOT, in 2019 there were a total of 2,771 road debris accidents.
In 2020, there were 2,551, and so far in 2021, there have been 1,424.
Waze shared data with KPRC 2 Investigates showing where drivers report the highest and lowest amounts of road hazards. This can include road debris, accidents, and even high water.
The American Automobile Association says 2/3 of these accidents are caused by people who fail to secure the items they are transporting to their vehicles.
Many people will use twine or string or even tape.
Included in this article, we have a simple demonstration of how to properly secure those items using a tool called a ratchet strap.
But what happens if your car is hit by road debris? Who pays the bill?
Joe Jones is a lawyer who specializes in accident cases. His wife was recently hit by a piece of road debris, a large sheet of plywood that came flying directly into the front bumper of her car.
Jones said if you are hit by flying road debris and you can’t identify the vehicle or the driver of the car responsible for that flying debris, you have to rely on your own insurance.
“In that case, you have to have comprehensive coverage. If you do, your insurance will cover it, minus your deductible. If you just have liability coverage, you are out of luck. Then, you are out-of-pocket for whatever the damages are,” Joe said.
As for Roy and Colley, who both survived and came out untouched after road debris came flying their way, they both say they have changed the way they drive down the highway.
“If I see something, even a little unsafe-looking ahead of me on the road, I move over, I get away from any vehicle like that,” Shelby said.
“If I see something a little crazy ahead of me, I’m slowing down, getting in a different lane. I just get out of the way”, Stuart said.