We spoke with personal injury attorney, Craig Swapp from Craig Swapp & Associates about something that frustrates every driver at some point: Dealing with flat or blown tires.
Swapp says personal injury attorneys see a lot of tragedies both in the news and with their clients that involve people getting injured while pulled over on the shoulder or side of the road. Recent data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that approximately 12 percent of all highway deaths result from shoulder accidents. That's an estimated 600 people a year killed, along with thousands injured while making emergency stops off the highway.
Swapp says there are a couple of major reasons these types of accidents happen. The first being that drivers often unconsciously drive towards what they are looking at. When they see a car pulled over to the side of the road, or flashing hazard lights or police lights, they may inadvertently drive into the vehicle. In most states, when you see a police or emergency vehicle on the side of a freeway or road, you are required to move one lane away from that vehicle, or slow down if traffic is heavy. Another issue occurs when drivers attempt to re-enter the flow of traffic after pulling over to the shoulder, collisions happen when the re-entering vehicle has to accelerate to reach traffic speed.
Swapp says that jamming on the brakes the moment a tire blows is a recipe for losing control of your vehicle. Utah Highway Patrol Troopers say the right thing to do is to take your foot off the gas and gradually slow down. Signal to other drivers you're pulling over. Once you've pulled over, turn your hazard lights on and call 911 or another roadside service.
If you think you have no option but to change the flat tire yourself, make sure that you know how to change a tire properly and how to use the tools and equipment that come with the car. Some cars come with a portable air compressor or can of 'Fix a Flat,' which may help with small leaks and can get you to the nearest tire store. Make sure you slightly loosen the lug nuts before you jack up the car. Sometimes with how hard lug nuts are tightened at the tire store, it takes quite a bit of force to loosen them and you don`t want to do that once the tire is jacked up. And, of course, you want to make sure that the jack is placed on a stable surface. If you can`t jack up the car safely, then you really should call for help.
If you experience a flat where there is no shoulder to pull over safely, the best thing to do is to slow down, put on your flashers and try to reach a pull-out or the nearest exit. You may ruin your tire by driving on it flat, but that is better than causing an accident.
You have the right to be on the side of the road if your vehicle breaks down for any reason. If someone hits you and you're injured, you have the right to fair and full compensation.