PHOENIX (FOX 10) - Many of us have driven around and seen another vehicle, maybe a pickup truck, with so much stuff in the back, and thought that something could come flying through your windshield at any moment. That actually happened in the tragic case of one Valley father who lost his son and hopes his story will show others the dangers of not securing your load.
"Take a moment to think about a time when you were in your car or your pickup [truck] driving and you had to slam on your brakes or swerve because of something like a ladder or piece of furniture or even tree branches suddenly appeared ahead of you in your lane," said Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers.
It's an image that Paul and Toby Reif envision constantly after road debris killed their son, Matthew.
"My son was killed by a piece of metal that was only one foot long and two inches wide," said Paul.
On June 6, 2006, while working a construction job in San Tan Valley, a loose piece of metal from a trailer of a truck fired off the road like a bullet, killing the 29-year-old while he was driving on Hunt Highway.
"Unsecured loads and road debris are not freak accidents, they are frequent accidents," said Paul. "Most are preventable, with a few minutes of time and a few dollars of equipment."
According to DPS, there are roughly 1,000 debris-related crashes throughout Arizona each year. in Maricopa County, there were 12 deaths in the last five years blamed on road debris. The proclamation of "Secure Your Load Day" is a reminder to drivers that if you see debris on any freeway, it's considered an emergency and you should call 911 right away.
"I've seen a bucket fall off a truck, I've seen a mattress," said Arizona resident Diana Hopkins. "The other day, there was a big sofa that was just right at an exit that my daughter had to avoid going home. And yeah, it's dangerous."
The proclamation was made official on the 13th anniversary of Matthew's death. His father said that as drivers, we too have a responsibility to keep the roads safe so that something like what happened to his son doesn't happen to someone you care about.
"Secure your load as if everyone you love is driving behind you," Paul said.