Spot dangerous debris while driving? Here’s what to do

A woman was killed in Philly last week after an object on the highway pierced her windshield.

Pile of pieces of broken asphalt pavement on the side of the road during repairs.


A day after the deadly collapse on Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia, another fatal incident occurred at the opposite end of the highway near South Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania State Police say 33-year-old Cara Panichelli was killed on June 12 after a “large piece of metal debris” pierced her windshield and struck her while she was driving near Columbus Boulevard, according to WHYY News partner 6abc.

While deadly accidents involving road debris are not unheard of, it is more common for people to encounter objects that require them to swerve out of the way.

Here’s what you should do if that happens:

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On highways

If you’re driving on a state highway such as I-95 or I-76, you have a couple of options.

Drivers are encouraged to call PennDOT at 1-800-FIX-ROAD to report debris. They can also go online and fill out a form on the PennDOT Customer Care site. It’ll ask you what needs to be removed — i.e. debris, rocks, or an abandoned vehicle — and where the object is located, including whether it’s in the roadway or on the side of the road, as well as the nearest cross street, intersection, or mile marker.

PennDOT Engineering District 6 spokesperson Brad Rudolph said the reports are then “quickly sent” to staffers, as well as county maintenance forces, “to address them in a timely manner based on the level of concern.”

In Philadelphia, police say drivers can also call 911 or 311 to report debris on the highway. Operators will also want to know the crossroad or mile market, as well as get a description of the debris, said a department spokesperson.

“Police can come out to the location to block the area or remove the debris,” said Cpl. Jasmine Reilly. “If it happens on the highway, PennDOT usually comes out to deal with the debris.

On city streets

If drivers encounter debris around Philadelphia, they can call 911 or 311. Another option is to reach out to the city’s Department of Streets via this website if there is large debris in the road.

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The department will then investigate, according to a spokesperson.

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