DOT offers advice for falling objects - Tamara Boatwright

Last week I yammered on about a football size rock sailing off a dump truck and slamming into the left fender of my car. I took a light-hearted look at what could have been a serious situation.

But I'm still on a mission.

In the last seven days I have seen dump trucks swerving in and out of traffic like sports cars and dump trucks with the tarp – the alleged load cover – flapping in the wind. But my favorite was a truck that decided to get motorists into the mood for a white Christmas by allowing its load of cotton-like bits to spray out the back like a snow storm. The white stuff was headed to an Eatonton poultry business, as best I could determine by the lettering on the truck door. I guess the chickens want to welcome Santa in a special way.

According to a pamphlet distributed by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Georgia Department of Transportation spent $11 million cleaning up the state's roadways and "those costs continue to rise." That $11 million came out of your pocketbooks boys and girls in the form of taxes.

But more to the point, The Governor's Office of Highway Safety reports that in the year 2000, roadway debris was a contributing factor in five motorist deaths. Now of course those debris did not come only from uncovered dump trucks, some pickup truck drivers are also pretty careless, but the law is crystal clear, "No person shall operate any motor vehicle with a load on or in such vehicle unless the load?is adequately secured to prevent the dropping or shifting of the load into the roadway. Any person who operates a vehicle in violation of this code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

That's trash, beer cans, cotton batting bound for a poultry plant and, of course, football size rocks.

Conviction of a misdemeanor is punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to 12 months in jail. That really amounts to a slap on the wrist but at least it's something.

So what do you do if something has fallen off a truck and damaged your vehicle or if you spot a truck that is posing a threat to you or other motorists? According to Susan Sports, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety, call 911 if you have a cell phone. Give as complete a description of the truck as possible, your location, what happened and the time that it happened.

And don't depend on getting the license plate number of these large trucks. As I mentioned last week, large dump trucks are not required to have a license plate displayed on the rear of the truck. The loading and dumping required of the truck would destroy the plate. Look for another identifying number, letters or something like a dent, scratch or even a dirt pattern.

And, hindsight being what it is, I would not recommend chasing after a truck as Naomi and I did. You'll undoubtedly drive too fast, will be concentrating on looking for the truck and not the traffic sharing the road and could come upon a situation that you are not prepared to handle if you accuse a truck driver, correctly or not, of damaging your car.

Finally, not all companies who transport items in large dump trucks are careless and not all truck drivers are jerks. But the few who are make it mighty hard on the rest of us.

Tamara Boatwright is the managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald newspapers. She may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 272 or at tboatwright@news-daily.com.