Gridlock Guy: The tolls of loose loads

Mario Kart is one of the best video games (this coming from a non-gamer). The races consist of Super Mario Brothers characters swerving and slaloming around obstacles and chicanes on fantasy courses. The classic Nintendo game and the many iterations thereof perfectly mix skill, caricature and dumb luck.

One feature in Mario Kart is a driver’s ability to drive through certain tokens on a race course and gain some sort of super power or obstacle — lightning, turtle shells, banana peels. Racers deploy these to slow down or take out other competitors.

This non-gamer’s favorite part of Mario Kart is K.O.’ing another racer with a spinning shell.

Unfortunately, people too often drive into real-life Mario Kart situations on the Atlanta roads.

As if dodging massive backups, numerous wrecks, potholes, drag racers, slow pokes, poorly maintained stalled cars and endless construction zones isn’t enough, too many drivers pay the price for others’ poorly-secured loads.

Errant road debris comes from loose objects in truck beds or on top of vans. This junk works into traffic when people don’t strap tools, furniture or bikes properly. Trash goes flying when people drive erratically with precious cargo behind them.

My cousin, Matthew Dilley, fell victim recently to other people’s carelessness. While driving on I-285 on July 14th, a foot-and-a-half long metal rod went flying through his windshield, striking Dilley in the face. He was eating a bagel that suddenly had a topping he had not ordered!

The truck’s operator had apparently not secured that offending metal piece properly. When the metal broke free, it launched diagonally through the bottom right of Dilley’s passenger windshield to his right jaw. He told me he had no chance to steer clear.

The results are a bloody face, bruised neck and chest, messed up teeth, a broken jaw, and massive medical bills. Dilley has been out of work for weeks on disability and has been on a diet of mainly chicken broth, as his facial repairs don’t allow him to feast on solid food.

Dilley didn’t ask for these hardships nor did he do anything to bring on the awful circumstances. Someone else’s loading mistake inflicted copious pain and inconvenience on him.

The WSB Traffic Team and I have covered some other horrible instances like these over the years. In 2013, a loose wheel launched off an I-85/northbound vehicle, went dozens of feet in the air, and landed on an I-85/southbound van in Brookhaven, killing someone inside. A loose wheel also recently killed a Savannah woman as she walked down the street.

ExploreWoman killed by flying tire ‘had nowhere to go’

Most instances of errant traffic junk do not cause injuries or death. But they do cause delays, flat tires and vehicle damage. Understaffed first responding agencies get bogged down having to move a broken couch but then get flack for rising crime rates.

Driver responsibility is a major cornerstone of this column and load responsibility is part of that. Properly securing even the smallest tools after a long day’s work is part of the yolk of transporting that equipment. Taking a vibrating wheel seriously, before the lugnuts slide off of the studs is what a motorist agrees to when taking the keys. Double-checking the bike rack before hitting the trails is more than a suggestion.

Other people’s livelihoods are at stake when any of us gets complacent. Dilley, whom some call “Dilley Dilley”, created a GoFundMe fundraiser to help with the tremendous debt with which someone’s transgressions saddled him. Many decisions we make can hurt ourselves and others and how we secure our loads and equipment is underlined in bold on that list.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.