Four people suffered injuries after a bike came loose from the back of a van on the interstate through Pender County, North Carolina (NC), setting off a chain-reaction crash involving three trucks. The pileup happened between I-40 mile markers 404 and 405, near the community of Burgaw, at around 1:30 pm on August 21, 2017.
The driver of the van that dropped the bike drove away, and none of the injured crash victims could provide a good description. The State Highway Patrol is asking anyone who witnessed the accident to share what they witnessed by calling (800) 334-7411.
One of the pickup trucks that wrecked while trying to avoid the unexpected debris on the highway overturned after swerving into the median. The two people in the pickup sustained serious injuries that required hospital treatment, but they are expected to recover. The drivers of the other trucks made it onto the shoulder of the interstate and received treatment for their injuries on the scene.
Troopers want to identify the van that lost its load because littering on the highway is illegal, even when an item like a bicycle comes loose from a door- or roof-mounted rack. That law exists precisely to prevent major crashes like this one on I-40 in Pender County.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation reinforced this message in a June 6, 2017, press release titled “Securing Your Load Secures Your Safety on North Carolina Highways.” Aimed primarily at dump truck operators and pickup drivers, the advice applies to all people who transport items outside their vehicles.
After noting that “under North Carolina law, it is illegal to haul an improperly secured load. Penalties for littering include a fine of up to $2,000, community service, and one point on a driver’s license,” NCDOT quotes these safety tips from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program:
- Lighter goes lower -- Put items that weigh less on the bottom. As your load gets bigger, evenly distribute the weight to keep items from sliding.
- Tie it down -- Use ropes, bungee cords, straps or netting to secure large or heavy items directly to the vehicle. Check that your restraints are in good condition and are not frayed, damaged or cut. Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer
- Cover it up -- A tarp or netting can be used to keep loose items, like leaves, tree clippings or clothing from blowing off, but remember to secure the tarp properly.
- Double-check -- Walk around each side of the load and check the top to make sure everything is secure. Items will move and settle during your drive, which can cause restraints to loosen. Check the load again, shortly after you begin your trip.
My Carolina personal injury law firm colleagues and I have repeatedly called attention to the potentially deadly dangers of unsecured loads and loosely attached tow trailers. Drivers must take the time and make the effort to ensure that items they transport do not become hazards to others on the road. When they do not, major wrecks this one in southeastern North Carolina happen.