Just about anyone who has ever been behind the wheel of a motor vehicle has experienced the dreaded tire blowout. In addition to the sudden, stomach-churning drama that you feel, there's the hassle of either trying to change the flat yourself, or waiting for AAA or some wrecker driver to arrive with help.
According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), sudden blowouts are a major factor in car accidents. Some of these types of accidents can be very serious, even resulting in a rollover crash. The study points out that there are several factors that could result in a tire blowout:
- Inadequate tread depth
- An overloaded vehicle, causing more stress on the tires than they were designed for
- Debris in the roadway
- Hazardous road conditions – potholes, railroad crossings, rain, hail, snow, icy conditions, etc.
- Aggressive or reckless driving
After your tire blows out, your car will start to slow down, and usually will begin to drift strongly towards the side of the car that has the flat. The keys to staying safe after a blowout may not be something that everyone is aware of. There are some tips that can keep you safe if this ever happens to you, and some of them are kind of surprising:
DO NOT hit the brakes in a panic. Not only is this a danger to you and the cars behind you, but it can also lead to the car pulling harder to one side. Instead, keep a steady pressure on the gas, or even slightly increase the pressure on the gas, to keep your car moving forward in a safer manner.
Steer the car in the OPPOSITE direction of where the car is trying to take you.
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After you have controlled the vehicle safely, look for the nearest place to pull COMPLETELY off the road. Never park your car where it is partially obstructing traffic, or so near the edge of the road that you risk being hit by another driver.
Proper tire pressure and making sure your tires still carry ample tread life are two of the most important factors in avoiding a blowout. On most vehicles, the correct amount of air pressure to run in your tires is actually listed on a small metal plate, usually affixed to the frame of the car, just inside the driver's side door jam. (On older vehicles, it may be found under the hood). If you are not sure of the correct tire pressure, ask the person who works on your car, or stop into any auto parts store and ask.
There's also an easy trick to help you decide when it may be time to get some new rubber. Grab a penny and turn it so the top of Lincoln's head is facing straight down. Now insert it in between the treads of your tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, it's time to shop for new tires.
No one wants to suffer the danger and inconvenience of a tire blowout. By keeping your tires inflated correctly and ensuring your tread depth is sufficient to drive safely, you can help reduce your risk of a car crash caused by a blowout.