Motorists and truckers in Washington state will face more than a small fine for driving with an unsecured load – it could cost them time in jail if Gov. Christine Gregoire signs a bill on the topic into law.
The state’s House and Senate have approved a bill that would make it a gross misdemeanor if debris falling from a vehicle – personal or commercial – injures another person. Currently, the law imposes a fine of up to $250; the new bill calls for a fine of up to $5,000 and/or jail time of up to one year. Drivers with loose loads that injure property would face a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days incarceration under the new bill.
House Bill 1478, also known as the Federici Bill, came about after 25-year-old Marcia Federici was blinded and suffered broken bones in her face by a piece of particle board that flew off another vehicle and smashed through her windshield, according to The Olympian. Because of a loophole in state law, the driver of the other vehicle, James Hefley, was charged with two traffic citations totaling less than $400, according to a press release from the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace.
“This law is about personal responsibility,” O’Brien said in the release. “You don’t have a right to cause pileups on I-5 or hurt people like Maria Federici.”
In 2004, the Washington State Patrol issued 46 citations for failing to cover a load, 387 citations for debris escaping a vehicle and 1,227 citations for failing to secure a load, the press release said.
More than 25,000 accidents and 90 deaths a year are caused by road debris, according to a study by AAA.