By Kismet Weiss / ADOT Deputy Director
At the Arizona Department of Transportation, our guiding principle – what we call our True North – is “Safely Home.” It defines our commitment to providing a safe transportation system for everyone throughout this magnificent state.
Recently, we had a chance to commemorate “Secure Your Load Day,” with some of ADOT’s fellow safety partners, such as the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Maricopa Association of Governments – all are committed to excellent, long-term collaboration to keep our roads safe. Governor Doug Ducey even signed an official proclamation for the day.
This event was held at the ADOT Durango Maintenance Yard in Phoenix, which is a fitting location. This is where some of our ADOT crews start and end their shifts each day, and of course we have similar facilities all over Arizona where dedicated ADOT employees serve the public every day (and night, for that matter).
They’re the ones responsible for maintaining the state’s highway system — that includes all the travel lanes, ramps, shoulders and bridges. They stay very busy every day making sure our roads are safe for drivers. They’re out there repairing guardrails, making pavement improvements and — far too often — removing dangerous items from the roadway.
Our crews have seen it all. From water heaters and camper shells, to ladders and even a few Christmas trees. These items that end up on the road are a major risk to drivers. The debris behind us was picked up in just the last few days and represents the clear danger of unsecured loads. The numbers also help tell the story. About 1.6 million pounds of litter is picked up each year from Valley freeways. More than 118,000 bags of litter were picked up last year – that’s more than 400 bags every weekday.
Unsecured loads cause tens of thousands of crashes across the country every year. Beyond that, law enforcement officers and ADOT crews are put in the dangerous position of having to clear the road when an item falls from a vehicle onto the highway.
Drivers play an important role when it comes to safety. Securing your load makes travel safer for everyone. Tie-downs, netting, bungee cords, ropes, straps and tarps — these are all things you can use to keep your belongings safe in your vehicle, where they belong.
A really great question to ask yourself before getting on the road is, “Would I feel safe if I were driving behind my vehicle?” If the answer is no, then you know that you need to make sure everything you’re carrying in – or on – your vehicle is secure before you take that trip.
One more thing I’d like to stress is how important it is to call 911 when you see road debris. When something’s on the road, whether it’s a small grill or a king size mattress, it poses a real danger. Calling 911 is the best way to ensure that those obstacles will be quickly and safely removed. It could actually save someone’s life.