Throwing rocks, or other heavy objects, from freeway overpasses has been a morbid pastime of teenage and young adult pranksters for decades.  However, problems appear to be getting worse as a recent uptick in incidents around the country have injured or killed a number of unsuspecting motorists.  Let’s take a closer look at this big hazard that gets little attention, as well as what you can do to minimize risk the next time you’re on the road.

Cover of Darkness

The vast majority of incidents occur at night when it’s easier for rock throwers to hide.  They also tend to occur on bridges that are situated in high-crime neighborhoods in populated areas.  However, there have been some serious incidents in rural areas as well.  Being hit by a rock in the dark is also more-terrifying for motorists as they rarely see objects falling before the impact, and this is arguably another reason that rock throwers choose this time of day.

Force of Impact

Even a small rock that can fit in the palm of the hand has enough force upon impact to break windshields and injure or kill people inside.  That force is exponentially-greater with larger rocks and chunks of concrete.  It’s also important to note that objects other than rocks can cause a significant amount of damage as well.  In fact, a man was recently killed on a Michigan highway after being crushed by a sandbag that was thrown off of an overpass.

Steps to Protect Yourself

Look at overpasses to see if they are shielded by fencing as you drive.  Some will be protected whereas others will not.  Exercise caution when you start to notice fencing, because this can indicate that you’re moving through an area where previous incidents have occurred.  Another good rule of thumb to follow is to always scan overpasses for people who appear to be standing around or looking out at the flow of traffic.  Most people who are on bridges are moving as they cross to the other side, so people who are standing still should cause your alert level to go up.  Try to change lanes in order to get as far from them as possible, because throwers usually prefer to drop objects straight down onto the lane directly beneath them.

It’s also important to have some kind of escape plan in place if an object is heading your way.  Whether it’s stopping before reaching the overpass, pulling off to the side, or making an emergency swerve, look at the flow of traffic around you and think about how you can safely maneuver out of the way.  Unfortunately, a lot of accidents and injuries occur when motorists crash into each other after trying to dodge falling objects without looking around ahead of time.  On that note, be prepared to make sudden stops or take evasive action if a motorist in front of you gets struck and loses control of their vehicle.

Finally, never stop on the road and get out of your vehicle in order to try and catch the throwers.  This can open up the door to all kinds of additional threats that you may not be in a position to contend with.  However, you can try and note the location of the bridge and contact the police to report the incident.  You can also pull over to render aid to any motorists who may be injured as long as it is safe to do so and far enough away from the throwers where they don’t pose a threat.

While there is little that you can do to avoid a rock throwing incident if you’re in the wrong place a the wrong time, good situational awareness and defensive driving skills can help you from becoming a victim.  Always be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to take appropriate, evasive action at a moment’s notice in order to minimize the chances of being hit or causing an accident.