June 6 was National Yo-Yo Day. When I was 11 I became obsessed with yo-yos. But when you get older you realize you can have a yo-yo, and you can have a girlfriend, but you can’t have both at the same time.
You’re probably wondering about a connection between yo-yos and traffic safety. June 6 was not only National Yo-Yo Day; it was National Secure Your Load Day.
Do we really need a day dedicated to securing your load? A better question would be, do we really need National Yo-Yo Day or Applesauce Cake Day (also June 6)? Yo-yos and applesauce cake are kind of silly things to celebrate, but making sure that whatever you have in your pickup bed or trailer is properly strapped down and secure can save a life.
Most of us probably don’t think about the possibility of permanently altering someone’s life when we pick up a few 2 by 4s from the lumber yard. That’s the point of Secure Your Load Day. We should be thinking about that each time we load up a truck or trailer.
Specifically, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you drive off with the stuff you’ve loaded up:
•Have I overloaded my vehicle or trailer?
•Have I tied large objects directly to the vehicle?
•Is the entire load secured at the back sides and top?
•Is there any chance something might fall or blow out of my vehicle?
•What would happen to my load if I hit a bump or had to brake suddenly?
•Would I feel safe driving behind my secured load?
Secure Your Load Day has its roots in Washington. In 2004 Robin Abel’s daughter Maria was nearly killed by a piece of particle board that flew off a trailer and through her windshield. Since then, Abel has worked to create awareness and change laws so that other families don’t have to experience what she and her daughter went through.
Prior to Abel’s efforts, if a driver’s unsecured load injured or killed someone, the consequence in the law was limited to a civil infraction (similar to a ticket for speeding or not wearing a seatbelt.) With the newer law, seriously harming someone because something from your vehicle escaped and struck someone else is actually a crime.
That puts it up there with impaired driving — both are gross misdemeanors. If your unsecured load causes property damage, it’s a misdemeanor. One big difference between an infraction and a crime is that you can go to jail for a crime.
In a review of crashes in 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that there were 683 deaths, nearly 20,000 injuries and over 90,000 incidents related to unsecured loads.
When we hear about what happened to Maria, the tendency is to think of it as a freak accident. Those numbers prove otherwise.
Really though, those accidents are predictable (anything that’s not secured can fly out) and preventable (properly strapping things down keeps them from flying out).
It’s simple actually. We just need to think about it and take a couple extra minutes to do it right. To quote Abel, “Secure your load as if everyone you loved were in a car behind you.”
Doug Dahl is with the state Traffic Safety Commission. He writes a weekly column for this newspaper.