Millions of vehicles travel our nation's roads each day. While distracted and impaired driving seems to capture more national attention, other risks present challenges for drivers and their passengers. One such issue includes the negative repercussions of unsecured loads and cargo. While one may think this is a minor matter, families like Federicis, would argue otherwise.
In 2004, University of Washington student Maria Federici was driving home from work. Just ahead of her Jeep was a rented trailer hauling an entertainment center. Without warning, an unsecured plank from the trailer crashed through Federici's front windshield. Maria was left with a shattered face and no memory of the accident.
Six years later, a blind and disfigured Maria still struggles to reclaim her life. After numerous surgeries, continuing medical problems and millions of dollars in medical bills, Maria's dreams of graduate school are tabled and replaced with the simple desire of just being able to live independently.
Following Maria's accident, the negligent trailer driver was fined for a simple traffic violation. Inspired by her daughter's plight, Maria's mother Robin Abel campaigned for changes in Washington's law regarding unsecured loads and cargo. On May 13, 2010, Washington Governor Gregoire signed what is now known as Maria's Law. Under its provisions, criminal penalties are attached to drivers who fail to secure their truck, car or trailer loads.
Maria Federici's story is tragic, but not isolated. News from across the country recounts stories about highway debris and unsecured cargo, wreaking havoc on commuters and putting lives in jeopardy. This past September, rockstar Mike Edwards, a member of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), was killed when an unsecured 700 lb bale of hay hit his car.
Some states, including Ohio and Illinois, have specific statutes that address the issue of unsecured loads. Illinois' statute focuses primarily on trucks and attaches fines and other violations. Still, most states simply enforce minor traffic fines against these negligent drivers rather than criminal penalties.
Maria Frederic's life stands as proof that other types of risky driver behavior warrant special consideration. Unsecured loads can lead to serious injury, incredible financial hardship, unforeseen medical costs and even death. Measures like Maria's Law can help reduce the risk of preventable accidents. For those injured by negligent behavior, seek legal advice from a reputable attorney experienced in handling unsecured truck load accidents.