SALT LAKE CITY — Debris on I-15 led to the death of a motorcyclist, and the Utah Highway Patrol says it is a fatality that didn’t have to happen.
Royce Munns, 46, of Brigham City died Monday night when he collided with the mattress while riding his motorcycle. He was thrown from his motorcycle and the bike got tangled in the mattress and caught fire.
“It should have been securely fastened to a vehicle,” UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson said. “It should have been secured so it did not move at all.”
Someone has come forward saying they lost a mattress. The driver is being questioned to see if they are the owner of the mattress that caused the fatality.
Beyond spilling the load, which could lead to a fine of up to $500 and $250 for littering, both misdemeanors, the driver could face more serious charges.
The UHP receives 10 to 20 calls a day about debris on the road, things like couches, washing machines, shells coming off of pickup trucks, a stroller, a toilet, a shed and mattresses.
“In Utah, specifically, we’re averaging about 500 crashes related specifically to debris, so it is a common occurrence and something the public needs to be very aware of,” said Robert Hull, UDOT director of traffic and safety.
So far this year, there have been nearly 200 crashes. There have been two deaths due to road debris since 2010, including the one Monday night.
When drivers come upon debris, “they may swerve into another vehicle, or slam on their brakes and the car behind them may be a little too close, will rear-end that vehicle,” UHP Lt. Steve Winward said.
UDOT launched the Litter Hurts campaign a few years ago to educate drivers on the dangers of unsecured loads. “In the past, people would deliberately throw litter, little cups and stuff out of their vehicle,” Hull said. “Now what we’re seeing is unintentional loss of cargo.”
The campaign uses real stories to prove that unsecured loads can kill. In December 2008, Meredith Deckard was driving home from work along I-15 in Ogden. Suddenly, a box fell off the back of a truck in front of her. She swerved to miss it. In the chaos that ensued, she was T-boned by a semitrailer on her passenger side.
Forty days later, she died from her injuries in McKay-Dee Hospital Center, leaving behind three sons and a grieving partner.
Not only are drivers are risk, but so are the troopers who have to perform a traffic slowdown so they can retrieve the items on the road.
Winward said the solution to preventing accidents and fatalities on the road is easy. He said, “You can go down to a home improvement store and buy tie-down straps."