A 17-year-old died Thanksgiving morning from injuries sustained when struck by metal road debris.
The incident began Saturday afternoon when teenager Ethan Hawks was riding in the passenger seat with his mother on the 57 freeway. The car was traveling southbound when a piece of metal shot through the front windshield. The debris, weighing between five and ten pounds, struck Hawk’s neck. The impact severed his carotid artery and seriously damaged the right side of his jaw and cheekbone.
His mother drove him directly to St. Joseph Hospital. He was then transported to the UC Irvine Medical Center’s trauma unit where doctors put him into a medically induced coma, but the injuries ultimately proved fatal. Hawks passed away just after 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
It is still unknown where the metal debris originated. The local Santa Ana Highway Patrol office is requesting anyone with more information about the collision to call (714) 567-6000.
Hawks is not the first person to be killed by metal road debris. Just two months earlier, an 82-year-old man was struck and killed by a metal bolt smashing through his windshield. The bolt came from a CalTrans truck, the organization charged with cleaning and maintaining roadways.
Road Debris Causes Hundreds of Avoidable Deaths
This year, the AAA Foundation released the results of a four-year study highlighting the dangers of litter and road debris. They report over 200,000 crashes involved road debris over the studied years. This resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and over 500 deaths. The vast majority of which might have been avoided.
The primary accident-causing vehicle debris include detached vehicle parts, unsecured cargo, and tow trailers. AAA recommends for all drivers to have vehicles regularly inspected by trained mechanics and to secure all outside cargo. Following just these two tips can decrease the risk of debris falling from vehicles.
“Drivers have a much bigger responsibility when it comes to preventing debris on the roads than most realize,” said Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA. “It’s important for drivers to know that many states have hefty fines and penalties for drivers who drop items from their vehicle onto the roadway, and in some cases states impose jail time.”
A recent example of this comes from Greensboro, North Carolina. Police are charging a driver with misdemeanor death and citing failure to maintain lane of travel. The charges come after her attempt to dodge road debris resulted in the death of her passenger.