AAA: Nearly 40,000 drivers killed or injured by road debris

Sobering numbers from AAA show that nearly 40,000 drivers were injured or killed by debris on the roads within a three-year period.

There are two main causes of debris on the roads.

One is from things flying out of vehicles because loads were not properly tied-down or secured with a rope or a bungee cord.

The other is from items such as tires or equipment falling off vehicles because of improper maintenance.

According to AAA, between 2011 and 2014, more than 200,000 crashes were caused by road debris, resulting in more than 500 deaths and 39,000 injuries.

In more than a third of the cases, the crashes were caused by drivers swerving to avoid debris in the road.

Such debris changed Heidi Coffee's life. Her husband Gavin was killed in 2006 when a shelving unit fell out of a pickup on I-5.

"I knew that (the driver) was extremely remorseful. Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and change the little things, the little choices that we make can have huge consequences,” said Coffee.

Gavin Coffee’s vehicle was hit by another car after debris fell out of a construction truck. The driver of that truck was the first to be charged under a Washington law that boosted the penalties for driving with an unsecured load.

If convicted, drivers with unsecured loads that cause an injury could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and receive a $5,000 fine.

Before that law was passed in 2005, drivers would only get a $250 ticket.