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Maintenance crews say they often find tires discarded on Calgary's busy roadways. (CBC)

The death of a Calgary driver, killed by a flying piece of highway debris, is raising more awareness of the dangers of items left on roadways.

A piece of a brake drum, weighing about 13.6 kilograms, was lying on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Stoney Trail exit, when a semi-trailer drove over it, sending the debris hurtling back into a woman's windshield on Monday. She died from head injuries.

Police believe the drum fell from a large commercial vehicle, likely without the driver even noticing.

Maintenance workers who patrol Calgary's busy freeways say they find all sorts of debris, including vehicle parts, fridges, stoves and all sorts of furniture.

"People change a tire and they'll just leave it there on the side of the road," said David Francis, who works for Carmacks, the company in charge of patrolling Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail for debris.

Since Stoney Trail opened on Nov. 1, Carmacks has picked up about 1,080 pieces of debris from the road.


A partial brake drum, which was kicked up by a semi-trailer, smashed into the windshield of this SUV, killing a Calgary woman. ((CBC))

"All of those pieces would be considered to be a hazard," said Gary Brooks, a highway division manager for Carmacks.

Most items fly off unsecured loads, he said. In Calgary, loads must be secured with a tarp or drivers can be fined $500. While there's room for more enforcement, maintenance crews know this can be difficult.

"Just based on sheer volume alone, it's [30,000] to 40,000 vehicles a day travel Stoney Trail and just percentage-wise some of them just cannot be caught," Brooks said Wednesday.

Francis said he's seen accidents caused by drivers trying to avoid road debris.

"You'll come upon an accident where something has fallen off a truck or a trailer, and someone slams on their brakes and it causes a multi-car pileup," he said.

Francis added he hopes Monday's tragedy is a lesson for Calgary drivers: "Hopefully, it's an awakening for some people."