Highway Safety: Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads Page: 19 of 38
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States Have Punitive
Measures of Varying
Degrees, Including Fines
of $10 to $5,000 and
All states have some level of fines or penalties for violations of
unsecured-load statutes. Most states have specific penalties ranging from
as little as $10 to as much as $5,000; fifteen states include possible jail
time. (See fig. 4.)
* Two states-Nevada and New Hampshire-reported the fine as
unknown, because it is imposed at the local court level and could vary
* Twenty states and the District of Columbia reported maximum fines of
$10 to less than $500 and only two of those states-Tennessee and
Colorado-add possible jail time in addition to the fine. 13 Eight of
these states have maximum fines between $10 and $100 for the first
* Twenty-eight states reported more severe maximum fines of $500 to
$5,000 for violating unsecured-load laws and thirteen of those
states-Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi,
New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West
Virginia, and Wyoming-include possible jail time in addition to a fine.
The states of Illinois, 14 Virginia,15 and Washington16 have the highest
maximum fines: $2,500 for Illinois and Virginia, and $5,000 for
Washington.17 In addition, the law enforcement officials in all of the seven
states we selected for interviews stated that additional criminal charges
could be brought in their state against individuals who injured or killed a
person as a result of negligently securing their load in addition to the
specific penalties stated in unsecured-load statutes.
13Jail time ranges from no more than 30 days for example in New York, South Dakota,
and Tennessee-to no more than a year in Georgia, Illinois, Virginia, and Washington.
14Illinois Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-55).
15Va. Code Ann. 10.1-1424 and 46.2-1156.
16Rev. Code Wash. 46.61.655.
17Washington became the state with the nation's highest unsecured load fine following the
passage of House Bill 1478 known as "Maria's Law," for a young woman who was injured
during a 2004 accident caused by road debris. Maria's Law criminalized the failure to
properly secure a load. A person who causes an injury or death by failing to secure a load
in the state can be charged with a gross misdemeanor and faced with a year in jail and a
GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Highway Safety: Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads, report, November 15, 2012; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc300082/m1/19/: accessed April 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.