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Highway litter can be a deadly problem
Jul 03, 2013 | 1817 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print


Clipper Staff Writer

CENTERVILLE – The death of 16-year-old Claire Kenyon last week shows what can happen when motorists don’t tie their loads down properly. 

Law enforcement officers and Utah Department of Transportation crews see debris every day and deal with its consequences.

Kenyon died from injuries she suffered in an accident on northbound I-15 near Parrish Lane on June 27. The vehicle she was sitting in was hit by another vehicle that swerved to miss a metal ramp in the road. She was ejected from her vehicle and was air-lifted to the hospital, where she later died.

Law enforcement identified Paul Dannelly, 56, of South Jordan, as the driver of the vehicle that lost the metal ramp. Troopers say he has been in contact with authorities and has expressed remorse, according to a UHP press release. He told investigators he had been unaware the ramp had fallen from his vehicle.

Dannelly could face a fine ranging from $270 up to $750 and could serve 90 days in jail for not securing his load properly, said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ted Tingey.

Last year, there were 700 crashes on Utah roads caused by debris in the road, said Utah Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tania Mashburn. More than 25,000 accidents are caused in the United States annually because of road debris, she said.

In the past five years, there have been 12 deaths in Utah caused by debris in the road, Tingey said. 

Debris in the road becomes deadly when drivers swerve to miss an item, or items are kicked up by one car and thrown into the windshield of another, according to the department of transportation’s Litter Hurts website.

“We don’t hear about all the crashes,” Mashburn said. “Unfortunately, we do hear about the worst ones.”

Litter on Utah’s roadways is a problem statewide and is worse in the summer, according to Mashburn.

“We’re taking debris off the roads every single day,” Mashburn said. That debris isn’t just minor items. It’s furniture, pipes, wood, barbecue grills, camping equipment, refrigerators, construction supplies and garbage. 

Looking along the shoulders of roads or in trenches between freeway lanes is evidence of the type of debris crews often have to pick up, Tingey said. He said it’s worse during the summer because there are more people moving, more people with camping gear and more construction being done.

I-15 and other major corridors have the most problem with debris, Mashburn said.

Information on the Litter Hurts website says that nearly 80 percent of Utahns surveyed have been confronted with objects that have been dropped on the road, and more than 45 percent have experienced damage to their automobiles.

“Depending on the day, there have been times we’ve taken truckloads of stuff off the road,” Mashburn said.

The agency’s “Litter Hurts,” campaign focuses on getting people to be more vigilant about tying down loads of any kind.

“If you’re hauling, you must secure your load without the possibility of losing it,” Tingey said.

People sometimes think they’ve secured their load adequately when they haven’t, Tingey said. Others think they can make it without tying a load down or tying it loosely if they drive slowly.  They can’t, Tingey said.

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