Every year in Washington, debris from unsecured loads causes more than 300 traffic crashes and 30 injuries. In 2022, that toll included five deaths attributed to debris in the roadway. Not only is litter unsightly and diminishes the beauty of our state, it’s dangerous to travelers, roadside workers and people who walk, bike and roll. Additionally, 40% of roadside litter comes from unsecured items falling or blowing from trucks and cars, according to the 2022 statewide litter study.
So how can we prevent this? It all starts with simply strapping down and securing all items in your car, truck or trailer on every trip – even if it’s just across town.
“We are calling on everyone in Washington to help save lives by securing their cargo every time they drive,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Two out of three Washingtonians do the right thing and properly secure their loads, but the truth is that five of our fellow residents lost their lives last year due to unsecured cargo, and that is unacceptable. We all need to do our part to protect each other, and to protect our state’s environment.”
On June 6, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington Department of Ecology are banding together to mark National Secure Your Load Day. Along with raising public awareness about the importance of properly securing cargo, the event commemorates people whose lives were taken or impacted by unsecured loads.
“Our troopers and commercial enforcement officers contact more than 1,000 motorists each year for failing to properly secure their vehicle’s loads,” said Washington State Patrol (WSP) Chief John Batiste. “Collisions caused by unsecured loads are entirely preventable. Ensuring all items are properly secured enables us all to have safe roadways.”
As a part of the annual campaign, state troopers are conducting emphasis patrols across Washington for three consecutive weekends between June 9 and June 25. Emphasis patrols during that time will have Troopers looking for unsecured loads, stopping drivers and handing out tickets to those whose loads are not properly secured in accordance with state law. Fines for littering and unsecured loads range from $50 to $5,000. If an item falls out and causes bodily harm or property damage, the driver could also face jail time. The largest fines are for “lit debris” — primarily cigarettes — and items that can cause vehicle crashes.Today marks the second anniversary of the We Keep Washington Litter Free campaign. Roadside litter is an expensive and unrelenting problem in Washington. Ecology and the Department of Transportation spend a combined $12 million a year on efforts to clean the state’s roads and highways. Last year alone, Ecology-funded pickup programs spent more than 150,000 hours collecting 5.4 million pounds of litter and cleaning more than 21,000 miles of road.
“Debris from unsecured loads causes more than 15 million pounds of litter on Washington’s roads every year,” said Amber Smith-Jones, Ecology’s statewide litter prevention coordinator. “Securing your load and keeping your truck bed clean and free of loose debris saves lives and ensures nothing will blow out. It also saves taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need to clean it up.”
Tarps, straps and cargo nets are easy and effective solutions for securing many types of vehicle loads and preventing road hazards, and are available at any hardware store or online. Ecology is working with retail hardware stores across Washington to share best practices and products to safely secure loads.
- Call 911 if you see a dangerous unsecured load or something fall from a vehicle.
- Learn more about Ecology’s litter pick up and prevention programs or visit WSDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway volunteer program webpage to lend a hand cleaning up roadside litter.
Washington Department of Ecology
Sgt. Chelsea Hodgson
Washington State Patrol
Washington State Department of Transportation
Washington Traffic Safety Commission