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Phoenix driver Mandy Poff was nearly impaled by an unsecured load and shares her traumatic experience.

“It Was Chilling”
Phoenix driver nearly impaled by unsecured load

Safety

Above: Mandy Poff sits in her damaged car. Photo courtesy of Mandy Poff.

It was noon on a Thursday. Mandy Poff, a 37-year old nurse for Phoenix Children’s Hospital, was on her way to work. The freeway was busy. She had just exited I-10 onto the on-ramp to State Route 51 when a utility truck, several car lengths in front of her with an unsecured load, hit a bump in the road.

“After he hit it, this metal pole launched from his truck and hit the road in front of me. It then bounced off the road and then kind of twisted up and into my car right by my face. And then glass came pouring all over me,” Mandy said in a recent interview with Don’t Trash Arizona, a litter education and enforcement program administered by the Maricopa Association of Governments. The program addresses the environmental, economic, health and safety impacts of litter, including dangerous road debris.

With her windshield shattered, Mandy blindly made her way to the side of the road. The driver did not stop. Mandy sat in shock until a police officer approached her vehicle.

The steel beam crashed through Mandy’s windshield just inches from her head. “And when he was walking up to my car, he just kept saying ‘oh, my God, oh, my God,’ and it made me kind of look around for the first time,” Mandy said. “And then I saw it and it almost made me pass out. I knew I felt it, but I hadn’t looked at it yet, and seeing the way that it was lodged and cut the roof of my car it was just – it was chilling.”

The four-foot long piece of metal had speared through her windshield all the way to the back seat, one end slamming into the roof of the car.

“It was literally this close to my face,” Mandy demonstrated, holding her hand just to the side of her right eye. “Had I braced myself or moved in any way, it would have impaled me for sure….Had it bounced differently and turned around and went in sideways, it would have decapitated me. So, I replay that in my head all the time, and it’s hard to stop that, it’s hard to stop those thoughts.”

Mandy noted that when the incident was reported on social media, many mistakenly assumed she was tailgating, but she said there were several car lengths between her and the other driver.

Final location of the steel beam that ricocheted through Mandy’s car. “I’m telling you when you’re going 50, 60, 70 on the freeway, you have very limited options at that point. You can’t control the cars around you, and it’s just incredibly frustrating, because I’m vulnerable every time I get in the car now.”

Mandy believes the driver saw the accident but he didn’t stop, leaving her with more than $1,000 in car repairs. But it is the emotional toll the incident has taken that upsets her the most. She still has difficulty sleeping and is hesitant to drive, especially on the freeway.

“The stress and the anxiety, and I feel like this could happen again any time I get in the car.”

That feeling is exacerbated by all of the unsecured loads she witnesses every day. On her first day back on the freeway following the accident, she counted five trucks in the span of 4 miles that were carrying items that weren’t secured, including ladders and pipes.

“If you drive a lot in Arizona and Phoenix, we’ve all been there to see the ladders on the side of the roads, the tires falling out of somebody’s truck, the equipment,” she said.

Mandy said it is frustrating, because securing a load only takes a few minutes. She wonders how many times the driver involved has driven with an unsecured load.

“Maybe he’s been doing this for years and it was never a problem, and then it just takes that one time and he could have killed me, and he could have killed other people,” she said. “Everybody does it. It’s fine until it kills somebody, and then it’s not fine. And it just takes a few extra moments to do the right thing. Just do it. Just do the right thing.”

Mandy added that her emotions switch between gratitude and distress.

“Everybody tells me how lucky I am, and I agree and I am really thankful, but it was a lot to go through and it doesn’t feel very lucky. Because I still feel very traumatized by the experience.”

For tips on securing your load, visit https://donttrashaz.org/Secure-Your-Load.

Published October 6, 2021

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