BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Roadway debris is to blame for hundreds of deaths and injuries a year, according to a new report from AAA.

The report revealed objects flying off the backs of trucks and cars are the cause of hundreds of thousands of crashes.

Those objects can range from car parts, blown tires and even unsecured loads in trailers of the beds of trucks. They’re to blame for more than 200,000 crashes, 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths nationwide between 2011-2014.

As WJZ’s Devin Bartolotta reports, AAA contends most of those crashes are preventable.

“Well, you want to make sure that you secure your load properly,” said Ragina Averella, spokesperson for AAA’s Mid-Atlantic region. “If you’re putting things on top of the vehicle, make sure you’re using either netting or strong roping. Throw a tarp over it if possible.”

According to the report, accidents involving debris are four times as likely to happen on highways because it’s more likely objects will take flight at high speeds.

It’s the sort of preventable accident that has claimed many lives, including that of Gavin Coffe. His wife, Heidi, said the crash that left her a widow and left their five children fatherless happened when he swerved to avoid a metal shelving unit and instead struck another vehicle.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said of the crash, which happened more than 10 years ago. “I thought there had to be some mistake.”

“I miss being a wife,” an emotional Heidi said, “because that was my favorite thing, was to be his wife and best friend.”

All 50 states have fines and penalties in place for those who do not secure what they’re hauling. Maryland laws do not impose jail time for failure to do that, but they do require that drivers go back and pick up anything that has fallen off their vehicles.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to keep your eye open and drive defensively to avoid any sudden hazards ahead of you.

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