You are probably familiar with the term “road gators,” even if you never saw it. Well, road gators don’t have anything to do with real alligators. They just look like one, especially from a distance. But that isn’t that important – the crucial thing about road gators is that they pose a severe safety hazard.
Road gators are tire debris, usually from larger trucks, left on the road. And, any tire debris that gets left on the road can be dangerous, especially for other vehicles. Tire debris is the reason for over 50,000 police-reported crashes each year.
What Causes Tire Debris?
Tire debris is a piece of rubber that falls from the tread of vehicle tires. But that’s only the obvious answer. In more detail, any tire loses a bit of rubber to the road, each time you hit the road. That’s normal – it means that the tire wears down due to abrasion from the tarmac.
However, most of the debris car tires lose isn’t dangerous to other participants. Bad things mostly happen when larger pieces of rubber land on the road. These pieces can wreak havoc on other tires, suspension, or steering components.
The largest culprits of tire debris are large commercial trucks or big rigs. These vehicles have enormous tires, which can lose pretty significant parts of the tread to the road, especially in case of blowouts.
That’s often due to overweight trailers, but it can also happen due to retreading. In short, retreading is the process of replacing the tread of the tire with a new one, so that the tire lasts longer.
Almost every big rig tire supports retreading. Moreover, trucking companies decide on retreading instead of purchasing new tires because of the cost – it’s nearly three times as cheap.
In most circumstances, a retreaded tire will last as long as a new one. Nonetheless, if the job isn’t done right, the tread can detach from the casing while the truck is driving.
So, the combination of heavy-weight trailers and improperly retreaded tires most often results in tire debris or road gators.
Why is Road Gators Dangerous?
The first thing that probably came to your mind is – why are larger parts of rubber dangerous for other drivers? Well, let me remind you that commercial-truck tires have large steel belts inside the tread, which give them a better load-carrying capacity.
And, it’s these steel belts that can wreak havoc on your car. That’s not only true for large tires – steel belts from passenger-car radial tires are also dangerous.
When you hit a road gator, the sharp edges of the torn steel belts can cut through your tire very quickly. Moreover, the belts can wrap around your tires, steering rack, suspension components, or driving axles.
All of those things can significantly damage the stability of your vehicle. Even worse, in some situations, you won’t be able to steer the car safely or even brake.
How to Minimize Tire Debris?
Obviously, taking care of your tires can significantly reduce the chances of tire debris. That usually starts with the brand – premium tires have a more durable casing, and can also be retreaded more easily.
Furthermore, the tires should always be inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. Underinflated tires can lose the tread more easily.
Meanwhile, the driver should always take care not to overload the truck. Each tire has a carrying capacity, and it should never be exceeded. If not, there is a risk of large tire debris falling off the tire, and even a blowout.
In the end, if you own a commercial truck, always retread the tires at certified tire technicians. The price in these places isn’t that higher, yet they can do a much better job. Moreover, most of them will give you a treadwear warranty.
How to React if You Encounter One
Despite the effort truck companies make to minimize road gators, you can still encounter one on your next road trip. This usually happens on the highway, where commercial trucks travel at higher speeds.
But how do you react if you confront one on your next road trip? Here are some ways you can avoid tire debris altogether, or at least stop and steer safely.
1. Keep Your Distance
One of the most important tips a professional driver would tell you is to keep your distance. This is not only connected to road gators – it relates to many other types of road accidents.
This is especially true if you drive behind a big rig. In this case, it’s always best to keep a distance of more than 200 feet. Otherwise, if one of the tires on the truck blows out, you won’t be able to react on time.
Moreover, when you overtake a more massive truck, make sure that you don’t spend too much time next to the truck. If a tire blows out just next to you can also affect some parts of your car.
Ultimately, always keep your eyes glued to the road. Keep your distractions while driving on a minimum, especially when driving at higher speeds.
Also, while on the highway, look at a minimum of 350 feet in front of you. That way, you’ll be able to react to road gators much sooner and readjust your speed correctly.
2. Reduce Your Speed
Once you notice a tire gator on the road, reduce your speed immediately. Panic braking might not be the best choice, though, especially if you have other vehicles behind you. For that reason, lift off the gas pedal and gently press on the brake pedal. Then, steer your car into safe space.
3. Don’t Panic
Prepare yourself for mild and cool reactions. Drivers usually make mistakes when they panic, so make sure that you stay calm. The best advice I can give you for staying composed is to anticipate, rather than react. That’s the virtue of great drivers.
Tire debris is something that has become a regular sight on public roads. Nevertheless, I hope that this article helped you learn more about the issue and how to tackle it better yourself. Moreover, I believe that you learned to take proper care of your tires and minimize the debris you leave on the road.
And, even if you have other questions on the matter, feel free to post them in the comment section down below. I’ll be more than happy to help!