Whose job is it to pick up dangerous road debris in Tennessee?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Washers and dryers, tires, couches and even 2x4s are just some of the things drivers have to dodge on Middle Tennessee roads.

“With all the traffic and everything it creates problems,” driver Stephanie Sanders said. “I am a nervous driver anyway.”

The dangerous debris is not only unsightly, it can be deadly.

The AAA Foundation for Safety found that between 2011 and 2014, 500 people died in crashes caused by roadway debris.

More than 39,000 people were injured in crashes during the same time period. Read more about the research here. 

Getting rid of the roadway hazards is a constant job for Tennessee Department of Transportation help truck drivers and maintenance crews.

“My cousin got $2,300 in damage to her car on I-24 when she hit a 2×4,” Annabella Warren told News 2. “It is scary. I try to be a defensive driver for sure.”

Warren’s cousin shared her repair bill with News 2.

She had to get new exhaust pipes, oil pan and gaskets. She said she had to pay for it all out of pocket because she only has liability insurance on her car.

Another driver told News 2 she had to pull over when she hit a box on Briley Parkway.

“You couldn’t tell if anything was in it or not,” Sheryl McKeel said. “A kind person stopped and helped me.”

Drivers who see dangerous debris on the road can report it to TDOT or the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

“It is a huge hazard and it’s incredibly dangerous,” TDOT Spokeswoman Kathryn Schulte said. “If we have a chair or a couch in the middle of I-65 there could be potentially a fatal crash.”

TDOT monitors the roads with the agency’s network of cameras. If workers spot debris in the road they dispatch a help truck or maintenance crew to remove it.

“Something else we also do is if there is a couch in the middle of I-65, for example, we can use our overhead message boards to alert drivers,” Schulte said.

It is illegal to drive with items in the open bed of a truck or in a dump truck without having it covered with a tarp.

THP can charge drivers with failing to have their load tarped. If a driver intentionally litter, they can be charged with littering.

Anyone who sees debris in the road should call *THP.

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