Sixteen years ago this February I received the call that is every parent's worst nightmare. It was Harborview Hospital and the woman said: "is your daughter Maria?"I said yes and she said, "She is in critical condition. You need to get here as soon as you can." Maria was on her way home from work that night when someone ahead of her had lost a piece of furniture. The 40 lb. board went through her windshield hitting her in the face at 55 miles per hour.She was almost completely decapitated. Against all odds she fought to live. A few days later she had the best of surgeons work around the clock to give her a new face. In an instant, our lives changed that night all because someone did not properly secure their load.

In 2005,  my Bill passed unanimously in Washington State making an unsecured load a gross misdemeanor with possible jail time if someone is injured or dies because of an unsecured load. My reason for changing the law was to make the law serious enough to get everyone's attention and make victims eligible to apply for Crime Victim's Compensation. In Maria's case, the driver was given a ticket for littering, unsecured load, no valid driver's license and no insurance. My daughter's life was forever changed and this incident was totally preventable.

After changing the law my mentor Norm Maleng, the late King County Prosecutor, told me….changing the law is only the start, the hard work is really educating the public. Much has been accomplished since that night in 2004. Honoring my promise, I have changed two laws in Washington State, had language in two national transportation bills ordering a national study on unsecured loads and road debris and getting funds available to the states to help educate the public. My Secure Your Load section in the Washington Driver's Guide is now in a model manual for non-commercial driver's nationwide and in the future there will be a question on the driver's test for unsecured load. This was done through AAMVA.

Unsecured loads are a big contributor to the litter you see out on our roadways. I have been told that it could be as much as 40% of the problem or more. As a nation, we spend about $11.5 BILLION dollars on litter and programs and still we are only able to pick up a portion of the litter out there. Most states have a law about unsecured loads but the key is enforcement and education.

National Secure Your Load Day is June 6. I started this safety campaign because I wanted to let the states know there was federal money available to help them educate the public but I also needed their help to get the word out. The states enthusiastically joined in at my request. Last year I had 48 states participate and have received 27 Proclamations from Governors and cities joining in. Some states and cities have even done a whole week or month of load securement emphasis and education. In Oklahoma, Keep Oklahoma Beautiful joined in with state officials for a statewide safety campaign for the week of June 6th. Please do not think that I have done all of this alone. I have only been successful because many great people believed in what I am doing. This is a grassroots effort.  

Here are a few tips for securing your load:

  • Tie it down with rope, netting, or straps.
  • Tie large objects directly to your vehicle or trailer.
  • Consider covering the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting.
  • Don't overload your vehicle or trailer.
  • Always double-check your load to make sure it's secure.
  • Don't forget that animals should also be properly secured.

We have one and the same goal. To keep our families safe on the roadways, save lives, injuries and reduce litter. Please join me and help educate those around you. By speaking up and sharing this story you just might save someone's life.

"Secure Your Load as if everyone you love is driving in the car behind you."  To learn more visit, www.secureyourload.com

Blog Post Written By Robin Abel.