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A near-death experience will change any person. But when a parent sees a child have a near-death experience, a law will change. When Robin Abel’s daughter, Maria, was almost killed by an unsecured load outside Seattle, she knew something would have to change to limit these preventable events.


Ms. Abel has since been on a mission to educate people about the dangers of unsecured loads, including legislative bodies around the country, and even the United States Congress. Starting right here in Washington, laws started to change. Her website,, has a lot of information and resources on the secured load laws nationwide, as well as how dangerous it can be.

One resource is from a study done by the AAA Foundation for Safety.  It found that there were more than 200,000 crashes, resulting in 39,000 injuries 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014. I was surprised by those numbers.


In Washington, it is unlawful for a vehicle carrying a load, including dirt, sand, or gravel, to be on the roads without that load being secured or covered. Failure to secure a load is a civil infraction.  If an unsecured load causes damage to property, the driver could face up to 90 days jail and a $1,000.00 fine.  Finally, if an unsecured load causes substantial injury or death, the driver faces up to a 1-year jail sentence. Of course, the driver could also face a lawsuit for damages.

Given how dangerous this can be, those penalties almost seem light.  I suspect Ms. Abel and her daughter would agree. The collision that almost killed her required multiple surgeries, re-learning how to swallow, walk, and talk. The accident also led her daughter to become blind.

So the answer is simple: Secure your load. It is a simple, easy way to make the roads safer.

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About the Author

Benjamin P. Melnick

Ben Melnick joined the firm in 2018. He graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor's degree in 2010, and went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law. In 2016, he was named as the Clark County Bar Association's Rising Star. His practice focuses on personal injury, auto accidents, biking accidents, wrongful death, and insurance disputes. Outside work, Ben likes spend time with his wife outdoors—mostly running, hiking, and skiing—and playing soccer.

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