As Americans have been hitting the road in record numbers this summer, it has been hard to miss some vehicles loaded down with bikes, luggage, kayaks, trailers and more. Unfortunately, according to a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, American drivers are not properly securing their loads on the road, leading to more than 200,000 crashes, 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014.

AAA researchers examined common characteristics of crashes involving road debris and found that:

Nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris can increase a driver’s risk of losing control of their vehicle and make a bad situation worse.

More than one in three crashes involving debris occur between 10 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., a time when many people are on the road traveling, hauling or moving heavy items like furniture, construction equipment, bikes, etc.

Debris-related crashes are much more likely to occur on Interstate highways. Driving at high speeds increases the risk for vehicle parts to become detached or cargo to fall onto the roadway.

The most common types of vehicle debris are:

Parts becoming detached from a vehicle (tires, wheels, etc.) and falling onto the roadway

Unsecured cargo like furniture, appliances and other items falling onto the roadway

Tow trailers becoming separated and hitting another vehicle or landing on the roadway

“This study underscores the importance of defensive driving,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma.  “Aim high in steering as you drive. That is, continually search the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead to help you spot debris early. And always try to maintain open space on at least one side of your vehicle in case you need to steer around an object.”