SIZE DOESN’T MATTER ON FALLING DEBRIS: DF emails “New Mexico places no responsibility on truckers who drop gravel that causes damage to other vehicles. Yes, they have signs telling you to stay back 250 feet. However, in the 15 years I’ve lived in New Mexico I’ve had three windshields broken by gravel – once when passing a truck on the highway and twice when meeting a truck on a two-lane road.
“On the other hand, it was recently reported police are trying to find the truck that dropped a water heater resulting in a fatality. My question is: How large does an object need to be for the driver to be liable for damage or injury caused by his/her unsecured load?”
A local attorney says when it comes to stuff falling off a vehicle and damaging yours, size does not matter.
Antonio “Moe” Maestas, who’s also an Albuquerque senator, explains “the liability is based on good ol’ fashioned tort law. … The size of damage is irrelevant. Even a tiny pebble causing a cracked windshield is enough for liability.”
WHAT DO I DO IF HIT? Maestas says in theory “you can take a photo of the license plate, make a report, contact their insurance and recover the cost of replacing the windshield. Most times the truck is going faster than you and you don’t think to chase it down. Your only option is to use your uninsured motorist coverage.
“A dear childhood friend of mine got killed hitting a dishwasher in Interstate 25 while riding a motorcycle. It was near the Alameda exit northbound. All his wife could do was have the N.M. Department of Transportation check the cameras at the Big I and see if they could spot a possible truck.”
TIE DOWN THAT LOAD: As for those hauling items to the landfill or elsewhere, Maestas says ” when you go to the city landfill it charges you an extra fee if you don’t have your load tied down with a tarp. Cops can also pull you over for not having a load tied down and give you a ticket. Professional truckers know what they’re doing. It’s the guy who’s moving his household items that is the problem. I don’t know if it’s taught in driver’s school, but basic safety protocols need to be followed. I don’t think folks realize it’s a serious thing. Drive slow, stay off the freeway as much as possible, and if you have to be on the interstate, hug the right lane with your caution lights on. Tie red towels on anything hanging off the truck bed and ideally have a buddy driving behind you with his caution lights on.
“Sadly, I have a feeling the idiot who dropped the water heater knows he killed someone. It’s a small town. … It’s rare that anyone would come forward. We could pass a law in Santa Fe that someone could come forward and not face criminal liability … and at least the wife gets an insurance policy,” but a law like that would likely face a lot of opposition.
DISABLED VETERAN PLATES NOT OK IN HANDICAPPED PARKING: Richard Zupko, 95, called after a nasty parking lot encounter involving a shopper couldn’t see his handicapped parking placard because of the sun visor. When Richard and his daughter showed it to him, the gentleman proceeded to tell them to “get the hell out” of the parking space because he was a disabled veteran.
And while we should all honor and respect those who have served our country, one has nothing to do with the other.
Back in 2011 the Motor Vehicle Division pointed out a vehicle must have a plate or a placard with the wheelchair symbol on it to legally park in a handicapped space, meaning disabled veteran plates without the wheelchair are a no-go.
For those disabled veterans who need handicapped parking, the MVD spokesman said:
“When the disabled vet plate is approved for issuance based on the veteran’s disabled status by the Department of Veterans’ Services, DVS tells us if the veteran also qualifies under the ‘limited mobility’ standard for handicapped parking. If the vet does so qualify, we issue a plate that includes the handicapped wheelchair symbol. That plate qualifies for handicapped parking so that it is not necessary for the veteran to also have a handicapped placard. However, if the vet does not qualify as ‘mobility impaired,’ we issue a plate that does not include the handicapped wheelchair symbol and does not qualify for handicapped parking.”
Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.