What are Tire Blowouts, and Why are They So Dangerous?August 16, 2021
According to the most recent data available, tire-related car accidents caused more than 700 fatalities in a single year on roads across the United States. Many of these accidents are caused by tire blowouts, when a tire loses so much pressure it ruptures suddenly.
Because that sudden collapse can send a vehicle careening out of control, tire blowouts are incredibly dangerous, especially in high traffic areas and when vehicles are moving at high speeds. Here are some of the common causes of tire blowouts, how to prevent them, and what to do when a tire blows out.
What Causes Tire Blowouts?
Tires explode for a few different reasons. Knowing why blowouts occur can help properly maintain tires and keep drivers and passengers safe on the road.
Age. Tires are not meant to last for the life of the motor vehicle. Depending on the specific make and model, tires are safe for approximately six to 10 years from the time they are manufactured. Over time, exposure to heat and oxygen inevitably begins to degrade the rubber. Tire rubber becomes more brittle with age, making it weaker and more prone to collapsing.
Damage. Tires can sustain damage when traveling over potholes, cracks, and debris. Sometimes, the damage is immediate, and the tire explodes or flattens on impact. But more often, tires become cut or punctured and slowly deflate over time. That can lead to a blowout in the tire’s sidewall, the smooth vertical edge of the tire that does not contain any tread.
Defects. In some cases, tires are improperly manufactured, containing inherent defects that make them likely to blow out. The rubber and other materials can be compromised. The parts can be incorrectly assembled. An inadequate speed rating is another tire defect that increases the risk of a blowout.
What is the Tire Speed Rating?
A tire speed rating is the maximum speed at which a tire can carry a load safely for a long period in ideal conditions. That load includes the vehicle’s weight plus the weight of whatever is in it, including passengers and objects.
The rating can be found on the tire’s sidewall and is generally designated by one or two letters. If the tire is not rigorously tested or mislabeled with the wrong speed rating, the tire may not be able to handle a load and may overheat and eventually blow out.
Overloading a vehicle can cause the tires to overheat and possibly rupture. High speeds plus overloading increases that risk, especially in larger vehicles such as SUVs and vans that may be transporting larger loads. Every vehicle has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), which refers to the maximum amount of weight the vehicle can withstand.
That amount includes the empty vehicle, passengers, accessories, cargo, and tongue weight for vehicles towing cargo. The GVWR is usually found on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door. Exceeding the GVWR can not only lead to a blowout and other equipment damage, but it can also lead to an accident that injures the driver or someone else.
Proper inflation is one of the simplest ways to reduce tire blowouts and serious accidents they cause. Maintaining standard pressure extends the life of vehicle tires, improves gas mileage, and prevents failures. In tires, air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). For most auto tires, the recommended pressure range is between 30 and 35 psi.
Because tires are always losing air, around one to two psi per month, it is important to check tire pressure often. Underinflated tires do not have enough pressure to support the vehicle’s weight and can cause heat to build up. Those conditions can lead to a dangerous tire blowout.
The tread on motor vehicle tires is a critical indicator of their condition. The lines, grooves, and knobs that crisscross tires have an important purpose. They enable them to grip the road, speed up, slow down, turn, and stop. As that tread fades away through regular wear and tear, so does its effectiveness.
Tire tread should be a certain depth and should be regularly even throughout. Any tire with uneven wear or tread that has essentially disappeared giving a tire a bald look should be replaced, as it is more likely to develop a hole, leak, or blowout.
Tips to Prevent Tire Blowouts
Being proactive about tire maintenance is the key to preventing, finding, and repairing tire damage before they get to the point of a blowout. Here are some tips to maintain tires, extend their life, and reduce the chance of a malfunction.
Inspect tires for wear and tear. Drivers should schedule a tire inspection on the calendar at least once per month and before and after any long road trip. It is important to look for cuts, holes, bulges, and areas of the tread that show excess wear. Following the instructions, use a tread depth gauge to assess how much tread tires have to grip the road. The ideal tread measurement is 6/32 inch or higher.
Keep tires properly inflated. To find the recommended air pressure for a vehicle, motorists can look for a sticker inside the door jam on the driver’s side. The vehicle’s manual should also contain this information. It is important to note that recommended tire pressure may be different for rear and front tires. Newer vehicles also have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to alert drivers with a message on the dash when a tire is over- or underinflated.
Avoid overloading the vehicle. To avoid putting undue pressure on tires or risking overheating and blowouts, it is best to stick to the recommended GVWR, or maximum amount of weight permitted onboard. Overloading any type of vehicle is incredibly dangerous, and drivers who do risk tickets, fines, and dangerous tire blowout accidents.
What to Do When a Tire Blowout Happens While Driving
Even when a driver has taken all the proper precautions to prevent blowouts, accidents still happen. Even a brand new, properly inflated tire may be no match for a gaping pothole in the road. Should a tire rupture while driving, it is important to remain calm and take steps to stabilize the vehicle.
If a tire blowout happens:
- Do not slam on the brakes.
- Keep a firm hold on the steering wheel.
- Allow the car to slow down gradually.
- Once the car has slowed to a safe speed, carefully steer it over to the side of the road.
- Turn on emergency flashers or put out reflective safety triangles to alert other drivers.
- Replace the tire with a spare or wait for assistance.
- Remember that spare tires are meant for temporary use only and should not be driven at high speeds or for long periods of time.
Commercial Trucks and Tire Blowouts
Tire blowouts in large commercial trucks happen for the same reasons they do in smaller, passenger vehicles: improper inflation, excess wear and tear, and overloading. But a tire blowout in an enormous multi-ton big rig poses an even greater risk to life and property. As the scattered remains of damaged tires that litter the highway suggest, tire blowouts are not at all uncommon.
When a tire fails or ruptures on a large truck, the vehicle can rollover, collide with other vehicles, or spill cargo out onto the highway into the path of oncoming traffic. The additional force and weight of a commercial truck increase the likelihood of serious injuries. Trucking manufacturers, fleet owners, and drivers all play an important role in tire safety. When they breach that duty by producing defective tires, poorly trained drivers, or driving recklessly, they can be held responsible if their actions lead to injuries or death.
Can I Sue if I was Seriously Injured in a Tire Blowout Accident?
Whether an individual was injured in a tire blowout accident with a passenger vehicle or a commercial tractor trailer, they may have cause to bring a claim for damages. It is important to contact a lawyer after any motor vehicle accident to preserve evidence; build a case; and pursue financial damages for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering caused by a preventable tire blowout accident.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured in Preventable Tire Blowouts
A truck accident can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating for victims and their families. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck, the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are ready to help. From tire blowouts to all types of truck accidents in Maryland, we have the skills and the experience to build a solid case for justice. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.