Motorists sharing the road with truck drivers are vulnerable to big-rig tire failure and have even tragically suffered fatal consequences. The potential dangers are extreme. But there are tips to prevent you from being a casualty in a truck tire blowout accident.
Known to truckers and drivers alike as “road gators,” shredded remains of black rubber collected on the shoulder of the road are telltale signs of tire blowouts. Tire blowout accidents are typically complex because they involve many possible contributing factors. If you have been injured in a truck accident, you may need additional information about your rights and resources.
Tire Blowout Risks and Driver Safety
Any type of vehicular tire blowout is scary. But a tire accident involving a passenger car is not the same as an accident where a 50,000-pound truck is involved.
You can still protect yourself if you are involved where a truck tire is blown out by using some of the tips provided in this article. Imagining or understanding some of the risks that may be involved is important. The worst cases involve the following scenarios.
- Truck Driver Losing Control
- Flying Debris and Loosened Cargo
- Other Driver Panic
- Truck Rollover
The best way to protect yourself from a situation that involves an emergency situation like this is to prevent over-reactive steering and braking to a stop immediately.
Prevent over-reactive steering
Driving professionals warn about cars spinning out of control due to jerky, rough steering – turning your steering wheel smoothly and firmly helps your tires conform to the new direction without overwhelming them.
Get to know your Antilock Brake System (ABS)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides several tips about braking in severe conditions. Here are the highlights.
- If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, and you need to stop immediately:
- There is more than one kind of ABS system, consult your owner’s manual to learn what type you may have.
- Test your vehicle and practice braking. Your foot should remain firmly planted on the brake pedal, while ABS pumps the brakes for you so you can concentrate on steering to safety.
- If your vehicle does not have ABS, and you need to stop immediately:
- A sudden, hard brake application may cause loss of your vehicle’s steering control and wheel lockup.
- To prevent wheel lockup, drivers without ABS should manually pump their brakes.
- In a situation where you want to stop quickly and prevent skidding manually, repeatedly step on the brakes with the following technique. Smoothly and sturdily place pressure on the tires, then release the brakes slightly to allow the tires to resume rolling. Repeat.
Who’s Liable in a Tire Blowout Accident
Despite your best efforts to drive defensively, you may still be involved in a tire blowout accident. All drivers on the road are legally obligated to exercise “reasonable care” while driving. This includes not only following traffic law, but also requires drivers to keep their vehicles in good repair, including the tires.
And while determining liability may seem obvious in some situations, each case is unique considering the limitless factors that may have contributed to the accident, including road, weather, and driver conditions. Liability is determined after thorough investigation. Some examples where liability may be reduced against the driver include the following:
- A tire blowout is caused by an external factor, like a pothole or obstacle in the road. The truck driver’s liability may be reduced, but their liability will also depend on the actions they took after the blowout.
- Tire manufacturers may be held liable for a tire blowout accident if a defect in the tire’s design led to the blowout. If an installer or a mechanic failed to notice the defect while installing the tire, or if the installation was not done properly, they also may be held partly liable.
Finding the reasons and cause for tire blowouts are important to determining the outcome of your case. If there are injuries involved, an investigation may become long and drawn out since insurance companies seek to dilute their liability. If you have been injured, contact an experienced attorney immediately so your rights to recovery are defended. For more information on how tire blowouts can happen, read on.
How Truck Tire Blowouts Happen
Tire blowouts happen when a weakened tire is subjected to sudden pressure or impact that causes the tire to burst or rapidly lose air pressure. A blowout may result from any of the following factors:
Impact between the tire and a pothole or other obstacle can pinch the internal components of a tire, causing it to fray or even cut all the way through the tire’s fabric and rubber.
Failing to keep tires at proper air pressure causes the tire’s internal components to flex more than they are designed to.
It is just as dangerous to overinflated tires, and this is all too evident when outdoor temperatures start to rise. Heat causes a tire to inflate, and when the hot freeway asphalt adds friction to an overinflated tire, a blowout is not far away.
The reason semi trucks run on 18 wheels is because of their incredible weight. It requires the weight-carrying capacity of multiple tires to transport these huge vehicles and their payloads. When those tires’ maximum capacity is exceeded, it creates a situation ripe for tire blowouts.
Wear Over Time
The truth is that a truck’s tires may experience any of these risk factors and not blowout right in the moment. Instead, the tire is weakened a little more each time by exposure to these factors. It may be weeks or months later when that critical mass is hit and the blowout takes place.
Accidents Caused by Tire Blowouts
Tire blowouts can cause a chain reaction that ends in serious consequences for a truck driver and any motorists in their vicinity. One of the most serious consequences of a tire blowout is a truck rollover. Tire blowouts can be devastating to the truck driver and nearby drivers if a rollover happens.
This happens when the blowout throws off the weight balance of the truck. While a commercial semi truck may look immovable, the fact is that its high center of gravity, the narrow distance between the left and right wheels, and the heavy, unstable load it carries make it vulnerable to small changes. The sudden change in height pulls the vehicle side to the ground.
The term to describe this kind of truck accident is an “untripped rollover” since the truck did not hit an object for the accident to occur. Its aftermath can be devastating.
After the trailer keels to one side with a corkscrew motion, then it snaps the truck cab over. For the driver inside, being thrown from the cab is just as dangerous as being trapped inside it.
Truck rollovers wreak havoc on the highway. In many instances, truck rollovers will cross over multiple lanes of traffic before coming to a stop.
As for the damage it can cause to any other vehicle it hits, simply imagine what might be caused by a 50,000-pound vehicle thrashing uncontrollably around the highway.
While there are the miraculous tales of drivers walking away from a rollover, far more common are injuries such as the following:
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Emotional trauma
Other accidents may be caused by tire blowouts simply because of the alarm they create. The loud noise that usually accompanies a tire blowout can frighten drivers, causing them to slam on their brakes. However, one of the immediate consequences of a tire blowout is a loss of tire traction, which makes any sudden movements very dangerous. Tire blowouts raise the chances that a driver will lose control of his truck even in the very act of pulling over