Barbara Noble was driving to work on October 5 when a semi-truck passed her going the other direction in Whiteland, Idaho.
Unfortunately, this would not be a typical day for Noble, because the semi-truck left a piece of its load behind. A 2X4 fell off the truck and flew through the windshield of Noble’s SUV, missing her by inches.
Noble found herself covered in glass, pulled over and called 911.
Michael Pruitt, deputy chief of the Bargersville Fire Department, who responded to Noble’s call, says the force of something flying off a vehicle passing you and striking your vehicle is doubled. If each driver is driving 50 mph when they pass each other “that combined speed is not 50 mph, it’s now 100 miles per hour.” The force of the object entering your vehicle depends on the angle.
“It doesn’t take a ton of force to get something to penetrate [safety glass],” Pruitt says.
Pruitt also explains it in terms of two vehicles traveling at the same speed and having a head-on collision versus one car hitting a stopped vehicle. The force is doubled when both vehicles are in motion.
In the fire service industry for 37 years, Pruitt says he has seen multiple accidents where tires, rocks, and human bodies became projectiles into vehicles. “The list goes on of items I’ve seen come through either a windshield or side window into the passenger compartment.”
“Truck drivers, I think, are very vigilant about checking their load,” Pruitt says. However, he encourages them to use proper straps. And, he encourages anyone loading a smaller vehicle to stack items appropriately, use anchor straps, and not overload the vehicle.
He also has advice for other drivers: pay attention. “Give yourself plenty of following distance behind that load, so you give yourself plenty of time in the event something comes off the load.”
Pruitt says he has seen cases like Noble’s, but also cases when the driver did not escape injury. “You got to thank your lucky stars,” he says. And buy a lottery ticket when you’re lucky.
Pruitt says he attributes the seeming increase in projectiles through windshields to busier roadways. A lot of construction materials are being hauled into areas of development, materials “that can potentially come off” trucks.
“We’re moving so much by ground these days,” Pruitt says.
According to a report by Fox 59, a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputy found the semi-truck, stopped it and interviewed the driver, who said he did not load the truck. The driver does not face charges.