By Emma Everett Johnson

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    TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (KSL) — The day before Alex Kessinger’s wedding was one of the scariest days of his life.

It started out normally — he and his then-fiancée, Lydia Kessinger, had been finishing up some last-minute errands before their big day. One of the first things on their to-do list was to move a king-size mattress from Provo to their new place in Spanish Fork.

They were in a little bit of a “time crunch,” Kessinger admits, so they hastily decided his wife-to-be would ride in the back of the truck, lying on top of the mattress so it wouldn’t fly out of the cargo bed.

It was supposed to be an easy, 10-minute drive on back roads. But the trip was cut short when Lydia Kessinger and the mattress flew out of the back of the truck, which was going 50 mph down State Street in Provo.

“I remember looking in the rear view mirror and just seeing the flash of white,” Alex Kessinger said. “I thought she was dead.”

Lydia can’t remember many details of the accident. She remembers flying out of the truck bed, rolling on the street and then running to the side of the road. She doesn’t remember how high she flew or how she landed.

She walked away from the accident with road rash and damage to her front teeth, but knows it could have been a lot worse. If the couple could go back to that day, they say they would have strapped the mattress down.

Thursday, on National Secure Your Load Day, the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Department of Public Safety hope other Utahns will do the same.

“Summertime is going to be our peak time for debris out on the road,” said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Cameron Roden.

In the summer months, there tend to be more construction projects, movers and house cleanups, Roden said. Sometimes, the equipment or furniture people tote around ends up on the roadway.

“We have 750 crashes a year related to this,” Roden said. As of June 3, unsecured loads have contributed to 233 crashes and one fatality.

All fatal unsecured load crashes in the last five years have involved male drivers, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

It’s dangerous for the public, and it’s dangerous for UHP troopers, who respond to more than 70 calls per day involving road debris. Plus, it costs a ton — year-to-date litter removal adds up to $2.9 million.

This is all avoidable, Roden said. Properly securing loads isn’t rocket science, it just requires a little patience and the right tools.

The department recommends placing lighter items below heavier items and securely fastening heavier items directly to the vehicle.

Bungee cords can work OK for lighter loads, but you’ll want a tie-down strap if you’re transporting anything heavy-duty. Secure a net or tarp over the entire load if you want some extra coverage.

If you have doubts, consult outside sources before driving away. Look up a YouTube video, visit a website or, if you’re at a hardware or furniture store, ask employees for help.

Alex and Lydia Kessinger were lucky their unsecured load didn’t result in lasting damage. After a day at the hospital patching up road burns and at the dentist getting fillings, they celebrated their wedding without any real hiccups.

As for the mattress? It survived the accident but was ruined in a downpour while the Kessingers were at the hospital.

Alex Kessinger is just glad his wife loved him enough to go through with the marriage after her accident. Now, he has some advice for other drivers.

“I wasn’t thinking,” he said. “If you have something in the back of your truck and you don’t strap it in, you’re not thinking.”

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