By Chuck Mai, AAA
When I was 14, my sister was dating a guy named Jim Fleming. She was 19, a freshman at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., and he was two years older than she was. Jim had kind of a Paul McCartney haircut (this was in 1964 – the Beatles had just invaded the U.S.), he drove a ’58 red and white Corvette convertible, and I thought he was just about the coolest guy around.
One weekend, Jim and my sister were going to the movies in Lawrence, 16 miles north of Baldwin, and they invited me to go with them. Riding with them in Jim’s Corvette with the top down, sitting in what passed for the back seat, I was in heaven.
I think of Jim a lot when I’m driving, especially when I am following a pickup carrying what appears to be an unsecured or a poorly-secured load. You see, one day Jim was driving alone on I-35 just outside Kansas City when the pickup he was following hit a bump and a couple of the tires the truck was hauling bounced out and onto the roadway. Jim swerved to miss them and ran into a bridge support. He died instantly.
Debris on the roadway is nothing new. We see all kinds of things alongside Oklahoma highways every day: large black plastic bags filled with who-knows-what, 2x4s, tree limbs, sofas – and most of these things got there by falling off trucks, usually pickups.
As the load is being tied down, everything may appear to be okay. But once the vehicle starts moving, the inescapable laws of physics take over. Factor in the force of the wind and the action of the air on that load as the truck gains speed – and anything can happen. Those who use their trucks daily to haul stuff are well aware of these concerns; it’s the occasional haulers and the weekend movers we should worry about.
So I guess my message here is twofold: if you’re the guy with the pickup, make extra certain your load is well secured. And if you’re the guy in a vehicle following a loaded pickup or any kind of open-bed truck, stay alert, eliminate distractions and give that vehicle a wide berth.