Summer Truck Tire Blowouts – Why They Occur and How They’re Dangerous
Springtime in Texas, on Interstate 10 outside Rose City, a 2004 Ford SUV traveled west just after lunchtime. The SUV’s rear left tire ripped apart with a loud boom. The driver weaved, out of control, into the center lane and smashed into a 2015 Dodge pickup.
Behind them—a couple more pickups, a couple of small cars (a Hyundai and Toyota), and a 2020 Peterbilt semi-truck and trailer slammed on their brakes and collided into a pile. The Texas Department of Public Safety pronounced the driver and passenger of the Hyundai dead on the scene. A couple more people were transported to the hospital to treat serious injuries.
Blowouts Seem Bigger in Texas
Just outside of San Antonio, rush-hour traffic pulsed along Interstate 10 in the April humidity when one of the 18 tires on a gravel hauler burst. The massive truck swerves into the left lane. The northbound traffic goes south fast. The hauler hits a Toyota Corolla, keeps on trucking, and slams into a Jeep Latitude.
The 55-year-old driver of the Toyota, Johnny Rodriguez, has no control of his car as it bashes into a concrete barrier before crashing to a halt against a metal pillar. Flames engulfed his car. Later, he died in the hospital.
The Jeep’s driver was also taken to the hospital, where he was treated for his non-life-threatening injuries.
Double Trouble in the Sunshine State
The heat of May rose off the Florida Turnpike – a stone’s throw south of the Broward-Palm Beach county line. A medium-sized fuel truck carried about 1000 gallons of liquid gold. With a boom, a rear tire blew. The truck swerved, tipped one way, then the other, before finally flipping over and over, coming to a stop on the grass and weeds of the right shoulder of the turnpike.
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) closed the highway lanes and rerouted the southbound traffic. The truck driver went to the hospital and was treated for minor injuries. The scene became a hazmat situation.
A couple of weeks later, a tractor-trailer truck barreled southbound on Interstate 75 in the harsh sun of June, right outside of Ocala, Florida. One of the front tires blasted tread, forcing the driver to take a hard turn through the guardrail.
By the time the FHP arrived on the scene, the truck was facing the wrong way, skidding to a stop in the middle of the interstate’s northbound lanes. The truck blocked the entire roadway. Flames engulfed its front compartment as it burned to its axles in the grassy median. The truck driver made it out just in time.
The northbound lanes were shut down, and traffic was rerouted as firefighters battled the flames. No one reported injuries.
Danger in the Desert
On a hot desert highway in Arizona, Loop 101 in Glendale, a semi-truck shook from a blowout. Whipping out of its lane, the truck struck a sedan.
The collision sent the sedan flying, rolling over, before a minivan smashed into it, and both vehicles crashed into the median’s concrete barrier. The sedan spun to a stop on its roof.
Lifted by the impact, the minivan cartwheeled atop the barrier, only stopping as a light pole sliced through the backend of the van, wedging it upright. Both cars looked like an art installation of automotive carnage.
Arizona’s Department of Public Safety reported only minor injuries in the crash and reminded drivers to check the air pressure in their tires and look for wear and tear on the treads.
All these crashes occurred this year. As the temperature rises during the summer months, headline after headline show truck tires blowing out, endangering their neighbors on the road, and impacting the world around them in catastrophic ways.
The Science Behind the Blowout
According to the most recent data from Louisiana State University’s Center for Analytics & Research in Transportation Safety (CARTS), Louisiana’s roads saw more than 72,000 injuries and 722 deaths in 2019.
Almost 45% of all adults have experienced a tire blowout. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports more than 600 fatalities on U.S. roads resulted from tire-related crashes in that same year. That is about 2% of America’s traffic deaths.
Every year, tire blow-outs add about 10% to all fatal and non-fatal crash statistics. These blow-outs tend to occur at high speeds, causing drivers to lose control. On a busy road, a blow-out can be catastrophic. A tire-related crash will involve colliding with another vehicle in about 50% of these incidents.
Some risks may be harder to detect, like tires that have defective or poor designs. Avoiding running over a sharp object or into a pothole are not always possible, but because most blowouts occur in the heat of summer, tire failures can be reduced by paying attention to some warning signs and knowing the risk factors. According to the NHTSA, the most common causes for a blowout include:
- Improper tire pressure
- Carrying more weight than a vehicle and its tires can safely manage
- Not avoiding road hazards
- Forgetting to inspect tires for tread separation, cuts and slashes, or irregularities
Tires that are properly cared for and maintained can:
- Prevent breakdowns and crashes
- Improve vehicle handling and fuel economy
- Prolong tires’ lifespan
The Liability Behind a Blowout
When it comes to determining fault in a crash caused by a blowout, the cause is often driver negligence. Failing to inspect the tires or driving on defective equipment lay the liability in the driver’s lap.
But there are a few circumstances where fault falls on other parties. These may include:
- A tire manufacturer – If the tire comes from a supplier defective or poorly made
- A mechanic – If they fail to install new tires after the service has been paid for, if the wrong tires are installed, or if they do not recommend replacing tires when needed
- Road Maintenance Crews – If a road is not maintained and the disrepair clearly causes a blowout, the government or private entity responsible for maintenance may be liable
Taking the time to buy quality tires, keeping those tires maintained, and avoiding the risks of the road can save loads of time and inconvenience. Not to mention, a small amount of care and preparation could keep the roads a little safer, and may even save lives.