OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — More accidents are being caused by road debris as traffic volume in Oklahoma City increases, a state agency spokeswoman said.

Traffic volume increased in the city by 35 to 40 percent over the last two decades, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokeswoman Terri Angier told The Oklahoman .

"Even a piece of paper or cardboard can startle someone and cause them to swerve," Angier said. "That's a major concern for us. It's not just that it's unsightly."

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, between 2014 and 2016, debris was a contributing factor in 570 crashes on state highways, and 166 of those resulted in injuries. Four of the crashes were fatal.

Data from AAA's Foundation for Traffic Study show more than 200,000 crashes and 500 deaths nationwide were caused by road debris between 2011 and 2014.

The transportation department said unsecured items are the primary culprit. The agency spends about $5 million annually cleaning up debris from highways.

Some of the items removed from the state's roadways include shredded semitrailer tires, washers, dryers and sofas, according to the transportation department.

The agency has raised awareness on the dangers of unsecured loads in the past through media campaigns, but it's still an issue.

"Sometimes people think they're just going a mile, what could happen?" Angier said. "There's never any intent to hurt anyone. But we want them to think through the safety aspects before they haul anything."

Drivers with unsecured loads can be ticketed. Accidents caused by unsecured items that can be traced back to an owner could also result in fines.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com