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Litter not just ugly, it can be deadly


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MURRAY - The Utah Department of Transportation kicked off its "Litter Hurts" campaign on Wednesday. UDOT says deadly accidents caused by junk on the roads have actually gone down recently, but it says it still happens too often.

Meredith Deckard was driving when she became a victim of road debris. Her eldest son, C.J. Frank, said her death could have been easily avoided. He said, "It's all because someone didn't take the extra five minutes to tie down their load."

He said she slammed into the median and was T-boned by a semi truck. "My children won't know my mom. My brother's children won't know my mom, and my little brother, who's still 16 and in high school, has to grow up not having his mom," Frank said.

UDOT Executive Director John Njord said, "This didn't have to happen. It didn't have to happen. All this person had to do was secure the load."

A dresser, a soda machine, and a bunch of other objects were picked up from Utah highways in one month. They are example of how dangerous litter can be. Njord said, "Don't just throw it in the back, tie it down."

**Facts about road litter**![](http://media.bonnint.net/slc/1243/124372/12437281.jpg)
- More than 25,000 automobile crashes are caused by litter annually on North America roads. There were two fatal crashes on Utah roads as a result of lost debris in 2008. - Motorists are required by Utah law to properly secure items in their vehicle. Utah passed legislation in 2008 increasing fines to up to $250 for littering and up to $500 for lost debris. - In a statewide survey, 84 percent of Utahns said while driving they have confronted lost items dropped on the road, and 46 percent of Utahns have experienced damage to their automobile because of falling debris from other vehicles. (Dan Jones & Associates, 2009) - Cleaning up litter and debris on Utah's highways costs taxpayers more than $2 million each year. - About 8,000 truckloads - each one-ton size - of litter are hauled to landfills in Utah annually. - According to a 2007 New York Times article, nearly 40 percent of roadside litter is made up of large items such as furniture, appliances and yard equipment. *- UDOT*
UDOT reports litter causes more than 2,500 car crashes on North American roads each year.

There were two deadly accidents in Utah because of lost debris last year, but the state says people are beginning to get the message.

"So the good news is we're making progress, but the bad news is we're still losing people's lives," Njord said.

Debris-related accidents statewide dropped by 22 percent in 2008.

The campaign, launched last year, featured TV commercials, billboards and a traveling display.

"I lost somebody great," Frank said. "Our community lost somebody great."

UDOT aims to push its efforts with a goal of preventing such tragic loss.

If you don't secure your load, you can face fines up to $500.

E-mail: wjohnson@ksl.com

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Whit Johnson

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