Road debris
Road debris, a form of road hazard, is debris
Debris is rubble, wreckage, ruins, litter and discarded garbage/refuse/trash, scattered remains of something destroyed, or, in geology, large rock fragments left by a melting glacier etc. The singular form of debris is debris...

 on or off a road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

. Road debris includes substances, materials, and objects that are foreign to the normal roadway environment. Debris may be produced by vehicular
Motor vehicle
A motor vehicle or road vehicle is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trolleys. The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually by an internal combustion engine, or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid...

 or nonvehicular sources, but in all cases it is considered litter
Litter consists of waste products such as containers, papers, wrappers or faeces which have been disposed of without consent. Litter can also be used as a verb...


Road spray (or just spray) or tire kickup is road debris (usually liquid water) that has been kick
In combat sports and hand-to-hand combat, a kick is a physical strike using the foot, leg, or knee . This type of attack is used frequently, especially in stand-up fighting...

ed up, push
In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction, or a change in shape. In other words, a force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity , i.e., to accelerate, or which can cause a flexible object to deform...

ed out, or sprayed out from a tire
A tire or tyre is a ring-shaped covering that fits around a wheel rim to protect it and enable better vehicle performance by providing a flexible cushion that absorbs shock while keeping the wheel in close contact with the ground...



Road debris can be caused by various factors, including natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

s and weather, specifically wind, storms, tornado
A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology in a wider...

s, hurricanes, etc., or objects falling off vehicles.


Examples of road debris include:
  • Particulates, dust, dirt
    Dirt is unclean matter, especially when in contact with a person's clothes, skin or possessions when they are said to become dirty. Common types of dirt include:* dust — a general powder of organic or mineral matter...

    , sand
    Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

    , and mud
    Mud is a mixture of water and some combination of soil, silt, and clay. Ancient mud deposits harden over geological time to form sedimentary rock such as shale or mudstone . When geological deposits of mud are formed in estuaries the resultant layers are termed bay muds...

  • Asphalt
    Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

    , concrete
    Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

    , pebble
    A pebble is a clast of rock with a particle size of 4 to 64 millimetres based on the Krumbein phi scale of sedimentology. Pebbles are generally considered to be larger than granules and smaller than cobbles . A rock made predominantly of pebbles is termed a conglomerate...

    s, rocks/stones
    Rock (geology)
    In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

    In geology, a boulder is a rock with grain size of usually no less than 256 mm diameter. While a boulder may be small enough to move or roll manually, others are extremely massive....

    s, etc.
  • Ice
    Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

    , snow
    Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

    , water
    Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

    A puddle is a small accumulation of liquid, usually water, on a surface. It can form either by pooling in a depression on the surface, or by surface tension upon a flat surface...

    s or flooding), and other liquid
    Liquid is one of the three classical states of matter . Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Some liquids resist compression, while others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly...

    s like grease
    Grease (lubricant)
    The term grease is used to describe semisolid lubricants. Although the word grease is also used to describe rendered fat of animals, in the context of lubrication, grease typically applies to a material consisting of a soap emulsified with mineral or vegetable oil...

     and engine oil
  • Plant
    Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

    s and their parts: branch
    A branch or tree branch is a woody structural member connected to but not part of the central trunk of a tree...

    es, leaves
    -History:Vocalist Arnar Gudjonsson was formerly the guitarist with Mower, and he was joined by Hallur Hallsson , Arnar Ólafsson , Bjarni Grímsson , and Andri Ásgrímsson . Late in 2001 they played with Emiliana Torrini and drew early praise from the New York Times...

    , sticks, twig
    A twig is a small thin terminal branch of a woody plant. Twigs are critically important in identification of trees, shrubs and vines, especially in wintertime. The buds on the twig are an important diagnostic characteristic, as are the abscission scars where the leaves have fallen away...

    s, etc.
  • Litter
    Litter consists of waste products such as containers, papers, wrappers or faeces which have been disposed of without consent. Litter can also be used as a verb...

    , food
    Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

    , furniture
    Furniture is the mass noun for the movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating and sleeping in beds, to hold objects at a convenient height for work using horizontal surfaces above the ground, or to store things...

    , mattress
    A mattress is a manufactured product to sleep or lie on, consisting of resilient materials and covered with an outer fabric or ticking. In the developed world it is typically part of a bed set and is placed upon a foundation....

    es, and other garbage/trash/waste
    Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

  • Glass
    Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

    , nails, screw
    A screw, or bolt, is a type of fastener characterized by a helical ridge, known as an external thread or just thread, wrapped around a cylinder. Some screw threads are designed to mate with a complementary thread, known as an internal thread, often in the form of a nut or an object that has the...

    s, and other sharp objects
  • Auto part
    Auto part
    This is a list of auto parts, which are manufactured components of automobiles:-Body and exterior:Body components, including windows and trim:-Engine cooling system:* Air blower* Coolant hose* Cooling fan* Fan blade* Fan clutch* Radiator...

    s, tire tread
    The tread of a tire or track refers to the rubber on its circumference that makes contact with the road. As tires are used, the tread is worn off, limiting its effectiveness in providing traction. A worn tire tread can often be retreaded. The word tread is often used incorrectly to refer to the...

    , lumber
    Lumber or timber is wood in any of its stages from felling through readiness for use as structural material for construction, or wood pulp for paper production....

    , construction supplies, etc.
  • Animal corpses
    Roadkill is an animal or animals that have been struck and killed by motor vehicles. In the United States of America, removal and disposal of animals struck by motor vehicles is usually the responsibility of the state's state trooper association or department of transportation.-History:During the...

  • Vehicle
    A vehicle is a device that is designed or used to transport people or cargo. Most often vehicles are manufactured, such as bicycles, cars, motorcycles, trains, ships, boats, and aircraft....

  • Broken glass, plastic and other materials that fall off vehicles during traffic collisions


Road debris is a hazard
A hazard is a situation that poses a level of threat to life, health, property, or environment. Most hazards are dormant or potential, with only a theoretical risk of harm; however, once a hazard becomes "active", it can create an emergency situation. A hazard does not exist when it is not...

 that can cause fishtailing
Fishtailing is a vehicle handling problem which occurs when the rear wheels lose traction, resulting in oversteer. This can be caused by low friction surfaces...

 and damage like a flat tire
Flat tire
A flat tire is a deflated pneumatic tire, which can cause the rim of the wheel to ride on the tire tread or the ground potentially resulting in loss of control of the vehicle or irreparable damage to the tire and wheel....

 or even a traffic accident with injury or death. In 2004, a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a non-profit, charitable organization based in Washington, DC that is dedicated to saving lives through traffic safety research and education...

 study revealed that vehicle-related road debris caused 25,000 accidents--and nearly 100 deaths--each year. At highway speeds, even small debris can be deadly. On June 16, 1925, in the United States, a passenger train carrying German and American tourists from Chicago, Illinois to Hoboken, New Jersey struck debris washed into a road crossing and derailed during a heavy thunderstorm. More recently, in 2002, Washington State had 350 car accidents involving litter or road debris.
Collision with road debris resulted in a solar vehicle accident at the World Solar Challenge 2007 in Australia.

[Road] debris, for the most part, tends to collect in areas where two-track vehicles such as cars and buses do not drive. In urban areas, this tends to be on the edges [shoulder]
Shoulder (road)
A hard shoulder, or simply shoulder, is a reserved area by the verge of a road or motorway. Generally it is kept clear of motor vehicle traffic...

 and on the crown of the road and frequently collects around traffic island
Traffic island
A traffic island is a solid or painted object in a road that channelises traffic. It can also be a narrow strip of island between roads that intersect at an acute angle. If the island uses road markings only, without raised kerbs or other physical obstructions, it is called a painted island...

s and junctions. In rural areas, this tends to be in the middle of the lane and on the outside of corners and bends. Road debris can be especially dangerous to bicyclists, who may have to travel outside the cycle lane and into traffic, to avoid debris. Flooding can occur if storm drains are not kept clear of road debris. In motorsport racing, road debris can cause loss of traction and subsequent crashes. Usually, the yellow caution flag will be used to indicates some a track hazard and the pace/safety car
Safety car
In motorsport, a safety car or pace car is a car which limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack in the case of a caution period such as an obstruction on the track. During a caution period the safety car enters the track ahead of the leader...

 will come out.

Road debris can also cause other more specific problems and damage to vehicles. Rocks can hit the catalytic converter
Catalytic converter
A catalytic converter is a device used to convert toxic exhaust emissions from an internal combustion engine into non-toxic substances. Inside a catalytic converter, a catalyst stimulates a chemical reaction in which noxious byproducts of combustion are converted to less toxic substances by dint...

 and cause the internal mat to break and clog the converter. Several recalls
Product recall
A product recall is a request to return to the maker a batch or an entire production run of a product, usually due to the discovery of safety issues. The recall is an effort to limit liability for corporate negligence and to improve or avoid damage to publicity...

 have occurred due to road debris. The 2005 Scion TC
Scion tC
The Scion tC is an automobile manufactured and sold by Scion, a division of Toyota. Introduced in the United States in June 2004 and Canada in 2010. The name tC does not fit in with its stablemates the xA, xB, and xD, because the name XC designation has already been used by Volvo for its lineup of...

's wind deflector was recalled because of potential shatter from road debris impact. The 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor
Mitsubishi Endeavor
The Mitsubishi Endeavor is a mid-size crossover SUV built by Mitsubishi Motors at their manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois. Based on the PS platform, it was the first vehicle built under Mitsubishi's "Project America", a program aimed at introducing vehicles for North America without having...

 was recalled in February 2010 due to possible mixture of road salt and road debris (mud) being trapped between a reinforcing bracket and the fuel filler pipe
Fuel tank
A fuel tank is safe container for flammable fluids. Though any storage tank for fuel may be so called, the term is typically applied to part of an engine system in which the fuel is stored and propelled or released into an engine...

, potentially causing corrosion. The 2001 Chevrolet C/K
Chevrolet C/K
The C/K is the name for Chevrolet and GMC's full-size pickup truck line from 1960 until 1999 in the United States, from 1965 to 1999 Canada, from 1964 through 2001 in Brazil, and from 1975 to 1982 in Chile. The first Chevrolet pickup truck appeared in 1924, though in-house designs did not appear...

 chassis cab truck was also recalled due to a possible road debris impact problem with its pressure relief valves.

Road spray can cause reduced visibility
In meteorology, visibility is a measure of the distance at which an object or light can be clearly discerned. It is reported within surface weather observations and METAR code either in meters or statute miles, depending upon the country. Visibility affects all forms of traffic: roads, sailing...

 and dramatically reduce the safety of motorists. Over time, road spray and gunk from [a bicycle's] brake pads coat the rim, which interferes with stopping power.

Large vehicles may throw up a lot of [road] spray when the roads are wet, which can make it difficult for drivers to see ahead. Dropping back further moves the driver away from the spray and makes for better and greater visibility. Dropping back also increases the following/separation distance between the spraying vehicle and the driver's vehicle. Using headlights (or fog lights) helps increase the driver's visibility too. Don't follow the vehicle in front too closely (or tailgate
Tailgating is the practice of driving on a road too close to the vehicle in front, at a distance which does not guarantee that stopping to avoid collision is possible...



A car bra can help reduce damage from minor road debris. Road spray is lessened on stone mastic asphalt
Stone mastic asphalt
Stone mastic asphalt was developed in Germany in the 1960s. It provides a deformation resistant, durable surfacing material, suitable for heavily trafficked roads. SMA has found use in Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada as a durable asphalt surfacing option for residential streets...

 and open-graded asphalt
Permeable paving
Permeable paving is a range of materials and techniques for paving roads, cycle-paths, parking lots and sidewalks that allow the movement of water and air around the paving material. Although some porous paving materials appear nearly indistinguishable from nonporous materials, their environmental...

 and can be further reduced with a fender
Fender (vehicle)
Fender is the US English term for the part of an automobile, motorcycle or other vehicle body that frames a wheel well . Its primary purpose is to prevent sand, mud, rocks, liquids, and other road spray from being thrown into the air by the rotating tire. Fenders are typically rigid and can be...

 (more so on a bicycle since most motor vehicles tend to already have fenders) and/or a mud flap. Street sweeper
Street sweeper
A street sweeper or street cleaner can refer to a person's occupation or a machine that cleans streets, usually in an urban area.-History of street sweeping in the United States:...

s and winter service vehicles get rid of most road debris and the Adopt a Highway
Adopt a Highway
The Adopt-a-Highway program, also known as Sponsor-a-Highway , is a promotional campaign undertaken by U.S. states, Provinces and Territories of Canada, and national governments outside North America to encourage volunteers to keep a section of a highway free from litter...

 program also helps. Road signs and variable-message signs warn drivers of road debris.


  • Motor vehicle operators should know and understand how to secure their loads, load securement requirements, littering laws, and associated penalties of failing to comply.
  • Drivers carrying loads should periodically inspect their vehicles and cargo to make sure it is safe and secure.
  • Be aware of the surroundings and look ahead up the road for any potential hazard.
  • Report unsafe vehicles and unsecured loads.


  • Enact legislation
    Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it...

     requiring that loads be covered, or use anti-littering legislation to penalize offenders.
  • Increase fines and demerit points for unsecured loads.
  • Make road debris incidents and crashes an absolute-liability offense.

Removal and mitigation

  • Regular road inspection and timely removal of debris.
  • Better roadway design that provides adequate visibility of stationary objects in the roadway to motorists travelling at highway speeds.
Source of subsections

Popular culture

Ocean Colour Scene
Ocean Colour Scene
Ocean Colour Scene are an English Britpop band formed in Moseley, Birmingham in 1989. They have had five Top 10 albums and six Top 10 singles to date.-Early days :...

, an English Britpop band, made a song about Birmingham, England called "Debris Road" (reputed to be about the road running past the band's recording studios in Ladywood) on their Marchin' Already
Marchin' Already
Marchin' Already is a 1997 album by Ocean Colour Scene.The album was a follow-up to the successful Moseley Shoals, and is in a similar style. The songs were taken from the band's catalogue that they had built up since forming several years earlier....

1997 album.

Some video games (particularly racing games) include road debris that will damage the vehicles or obstruct their vision. Spy Hunter
Spy Hunter
Spy Hunter is a 1983 arcade game developed and released by Bally Midway. It has also been ported to various home computers and video game systems....

(1983) features slippery icy roads and puddles, oil slicks, and smokescreen. MotorStorm
MotorStorm is a 2006 racing video game developed by Evolution Studios and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the Sony PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system. First announced at E3 2005, the game was released in Japan on 14 December 2006 and the rest of the world in March 2007....

(2007) has mud that flies around and gets painted accurately onto the body of each vehicle in real-time. Players can use this airborne grime to their advantage: a chunk of debris might knock an opponent clean off their motorcycle, or a mud spatter on their wind-shield might temporarily blind them. Fuel
Fuel (2009 video game)
Fuel is a racing video game developed by Asobo Studio and published by Codemasters, released on June 2, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and June 5, for Microsoft Windows.-Gameplay:...

(2009) features "crazy windstorms that kick up leaves and debris".
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.