I'd like to know why I'm always the "lucky" one to end up behind the guy who has the back of his truck loaded with a refrigerator and dryer and has either his friend or a bit of clothesline securing it down.
If there's a guy and his passenger out there attempting to hold down two sheets of plywood on top of his car - by golly, you can bet I'm the one behind him on the road. You can also bet it's a "no passing" zone for the next twenty miles.
I absolutely hate log trucks. I hate big trucks in general, but those log trucks typically barrel down the road with those nearly rusted out side restraints...bowed out like they're about to give out - at any given second.
And what's with that measly tattered red/orange flag sticking out from the shortest log they could reach? You know the one...the one that signals "Look, I have a long load and if it's longer than it's supposed to be...tough luck...I have a red flag attached. It absolves me of anything which might happen."
And while I'm at it, what's up with those "Not responsible for vehicle damage. Keep back 200 feet." signs? Any moron can tell you that if I'm reading the sign...I'm a lot closer than 200 feet.
Boy I wish it were that simple for everyone. I could use a couple "Not responsible for speeding or causing any accident" signs to put on my car. They'll go nicely with the one I'll enclose when I send out my checks, "Not responsible for insufficient funds" - and that one goes very well with my "Not responsible if I misinterpret everything you say because: 1) My cat has a better grasp of the English language; and, 2) Was that three or four verb tenses you just used there? And what does "he might could of" mean exactly...or at least kinda sorta.
But back to driving behind trucks carrying things which are destined to fly off and kill me...
I was not aware the laws of basic physics cease to exist inside and around a personal conveyance. Nothing will fly off if you use either your hand, your friend, or a bungee cord. These scientific properties are also known world-wide...but only by a select "intellectual" few.
I once was fortunate enough to witness a rarity in the "things falling off trucks" realm. One of those car-carrying trucks...the kind car companies use to haul the cars to the dealerships...decided it would be a good idea to start jettisoning it's load, one by one, onto the lady a couple cars in front of me. They always look like they are precariously perched on that skeleton of a frame truck to start with...and they look like if you didn't line up Tab A with Tab B, something would unravel. Well, sure enough, one of those angled dangling cars decided to go for it...and took a relatively giant leap of faith. And the "stupid woman" following right behind it, who apparently assumed the cars were somehow affixed to the truck, got quite an unpleasant wake-up call. They started rolling out like toppling dominoes...and she was the first to get hit. The man in back of her, as equally non-psychic as the woman in front of him, hit her. By the time it was over, it looked like the aftermath of some giant kid and his Matchbox cars.
Back to the log trucks...
Did I mention I was deathly afraid of those things? Well, I am. I think I actually saw one that didn't have the scary bowed-out metal side arm railings. Once. Each one always looks like it's about to spill their unbalanced load and when they make that left turn, I have visions of being decapitated...right thru my driver's side window. My impaled skull, just dangling there...that ratty red flag neatly implanted in it for added effect.
You might think I'm a bit paranoid or overreacting, but I know these things tip over, spill their load and kill people. I've read about it and seen it on the news a few times, and so synonymous are they with Alabama (I never saw them in New Jersey), "My Cousin Vinny"'s opening scene features one. While it was probably lost on the inhabitants of the other 49 states, living in Alabama as I have been for the last twenty, I immediately "got it" and sympathized.
And I always think back to an accident which happened here in Montgomery on 5 May 2004. Driving down Interstate 85, 19-year-old Aaron Prevatte did what any driver would do - he swerved to avoid hitting a metal ladder which had fallen in the road, undoubtedly from not being properly secured. The resulting series of events, including flipping his car four times and being trapped inside...led to his untimely and more importantly, totally avoidable death.
I tell that story often and remember it more than I tell it. I don't know why I do, for some reason it strikes an internal chord with me. Al Stewart once sang in his song, "Post World War II Blues", "I never met him, so it may seem strange. Don't some people just affect you that way." And that's how it is with me and Aaron Prevatte.
So, every time I see a load haphazardly strapped on, things sliding back and forth untethered each time the brake or accelerator pedal is employed, tangled metal pieces entwined so high, so rusted and so sharp, no one wants to touch them, let alone tie a canvas sheeting over them, and people trying to maintain their footing to steady an awkward upright entertainment system...I think of how easy it would have been to take the extra time to have tied it down right. Sure, it might take you longer than you planned...you're tired and you want to get home as soon as possible, especially before it rains. But that driver in the other car wants to get home as soon as possible, too. NOTHING gives you the right to do a shoddy job and risk ANYONE'S life because you just couldn't bother taking the extra time to do it right.
And if you feel compelled to do this and I see you on the road or highway...I will call 9-1-1 on you. I've done it before - I'll do it again. It's just not a chance I'm willing to take. I couldn't live with the fact of finding out I could have possibly prevented an accident and didn't call. Hopefully I've made a difference...hopefully someone who reads this will choose to make a difference, too...whether by calling the police or tying their load down better, or by not trying to wing it with holding that mattress down with their hands alone.
If that mattress flies off and maims or kills someone, trust me, you're NEVER going to get ONE good night's sleep on it...probably not for the rest of your life. No matter how many times you buy a new one and have it delivered properly and safely...you still won't be able to get rid of those recurring dreams.
Is that really a risk you are willing to take?
Vehicle-related road debris (VRRD) accidents are typically totally avoidable...and they are responsible for a fair share of accidents and deaths each and every year.
The "AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety" breaks down Alabama's facts regarding VRRD on Page 42: http://www.aaafoundation.org/pdf/vrrd.pdf . "Triple A's site can be found here: http://www.aaafoundation.org/home/
This blog was inspired by the unfortunate accident which befell Aaron Prevatte and is dedicated to his memory and to the memory of many others who also lost their lives by individuals who took shortcuts, used inferior materials to secure their loads, or who really shouldn't have been driving with loads the way they did...be it rain, snow, too fast, bad brakes, etc.
If we choose now to remember in vain...these memories will only continue to grow in numbers. If we choose now to remember with actions and words...perhaps one day there will be only distant memories.
(Originally written but never published in 2005.)