JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For more than a year, the I-TEAM has been exposing dangerous drivers who are putting other motorists at risk. We have seen trucks loaded down with so much stuff, anything could fall at any time. Now, two women are telling their frightening stories about their own close calls with potentially deadly debris on the roadway.
TV falls off truck and is left on the Dames Point Bridge
“I didn’t see it until I was right up on it,” described Liz Morgan who was driving up the Dames Point Bridge late in the evening last week when she hit a large TV that was in the middle of the road.
“It was an older model TV,” she said. “I’ll never forget that sound of a crunching under my car and the sparks going everywhere.”
Morgan said she had no choice but to hit it -- since she could not swerve to avoid it without hitting other cars. She slowed and pulled to the emergency lane after crossing the top span of the bridge.
“My A/C was a bust, my radiator was a bust. It caused thousands of thousands of dollars,” she told us.
Morgan said her guardian angel must have been watching over her that night.
“I am lucky I didn’t get hurt, but also when I think of it, if I had swerved just a little bit, I would have gotten hit head-on by another car and then someone else could have gotten hurt.”
Morgan has car insurance but still had to pay for a rental car, while her car was repaired, and had to pay $500 towards her deductible.
“Why didn’t they (the driver) call the Highway Patrol? They could have helped them move it to the side, rather than leave it on the Dames Point bridge,” said Morgan who explained that there were other pieces of debris in the road in addition to the large TV. She believed it all fell from the same truck.
Ladder falls off truck and is left on I-95
“I was driving north on 95, and all of a sudden, in front of me in the left lane was a ladder,” said Leah Donelan McDermott.
She managed to swerve to avoid hitting it, but lost control of her car and hit a guardrail. McDermott travels to Jacksonville for work, but said the accident happened in Brevard County.
“Florida Highway Patrol came almost immediately afterward, and I watched the officer run across 95 and kick it (the ladder) out of the way,” she described.
McDermott said she spent a couple thousand dollars of her own money to repair damage to the passenger side of her car. She was concerned her premium would increase if she filed a claim with her own insurance company -- since the truck that dropped the ladder was long gone.
News4Jax viewers and co-workers spot potentially deadly debris
Many of our viewers and co-workers have either posted or sent the I-TEAM pictures of other drivers taking dangerous risks on local roads.
The picture below was posted to Twitter of a basketball hoop. A driver said she spotted it in a lane on the Buckman Bridge last month.
News4Jax reporter Ashley Harding took the photo below of an overloaded trailer driving on Prudential Drive last month. She saw a chair drop out of the back, onto the road and cars were swerving to avoid hitting it.
New4Jax reporter Erik Avanier snapped the picture below of a work truck on Philips Highway. He saw a concrete bag drop from the back of the truck into the road. We noticed in the photo that none of the bags are tied down.
A viewer sent us the picture below of a pickup truck hauling several heavy objects. In the photo, it looks like a metal screen and bicycle are laying across the bed of the truck, but they are not tied down. We can't see any straps securing a water heater in the back, either.
Another viewer sent us the photo below of a trailer overflowing with cargo last April, and it does not appear to be completely strapped down. An old vending machine is at the top of the pile. We did spot a water heater in the photo that is harnessed, but it appears to be resting -- along with several other metal objects -- against rotten pieces of plywood.
Florida law requires drivers to secure everything they are hauling with a strap or tarp to prevent it from falling or flying out:
Florida statute 316.520 -- Loads on Vehicles
(1) A vehicle may not be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, shifting, leaking, blowing, or otherwise escaping therefrom, except that sand may be dropped only for the purpose of securing traction or water or other substance may be sprinkled on a roadway in cleaning or maintaining the roadway.
(2) It is the duty of every owner and driver, severally, of any vehicle hauling, upon any public road or highway open to the public, dirt, sand, lime rock, gravel, silica, or other similar aggregate or trash, garbage, any inanimate object or objects, or any similar material that could fall or blow from such vehicle, to prevent such materials from falling, blowing, or in any way escaping from such vehicle. Covering and securing the load with a close-fitting tarpaulin or other appropriate cover or a load securing device meeting the requirements of 49 C.F.R. s. 393.100 or a device designed to reasonably ensure that cargo will not shift upon or fall from the vehicle is required and shall constitute compliance with this section.
Local law enforcement agencies have also posted pictures of drivers being ticketed for failing to properly secure cargo. The violation carries a $116 fine.
If you see any dangerous debris in the road, you are asked to report it by dialing *FHP or calling 911. If a passenger in your car can safely take a photo or video, text it to 479-NEWS or email it to ITEAM@News4Jax.com.