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October 12, 2004
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Travis Yates Police Driving:
Safety Behind the Wheel

with Travis Yates

Vehicle Tire Blowouts: Avoiding deadly consequences

The rapid deflation of a vehicle tire or "blow-out" can be a common event, and many times a fatal one. Michelin reports approximately 535 fatalities and 23,000 collisions per year due to a tire blowout. It is nearly impossible to train for the occurrence and the actions of the driver immediately following the event could be the difference between a severe wreck and simply changing a tire.

The recent death of Florida Trooper Darryl Haywood has been attributed in part to a rear tire blow-out during the initiation of a police pursuit. The investigation has yet to be completed on this tragedy and this article in no way is placing blame on the Florida Highway Patrol or Trooper Haywood. The incident has brought the issue of tire blow-outs to the minds of many and as a safety columnist; I would be remiss to not address the issue in general terms for other police officers.

Prevention
The easiest way to remain safe from a tire blow-out is to prevent the occurrence. The proper inflation of tires, monitoring the wear, and routine inspection of tires is the proper course to avoid the occurrence. Regardless of proactive measures, the event can still occur.

The puncture of the tire is the most common cause while hitting a curb, low tire pressure, normal wear out and tire malfunction are some other causes. As a law enforcement driver, it is best to be prepared for the event and have the knowledge to prevent a tragic consequence.

Actions
The first indication of a blow-out will be a tremendous, booming sound going throughout the vehicle. This is a critical point for the officer. The first action is to avoid panic and to not overreact. The instinct of many could be to brake hard or steer the vehicle. This could lead to tragic consequences. The sound of a tire blow-out can be scary but that is all. The dynamics of a vehicle will not cause it to crash, the driver's actions could.

Following a blow-out, vehicles have a tendency to pull toward the side of the deflated tire. If the driver reacts by jerking the steering wheel or pressing the brakes to compensate, the loss of control could be disastrous.

The proper action following a blow-out is to slightly accelerate. This will keep the vehicle momentum constant and will compensate for the pulling of the vehicle towards the flat tire. The steering wheel should be held straight and firm. Once the vehicle is under control and away from traffic, the driver should decelerate or brake lightly to stop the vehicle.


Michelin North America has been a Tire Safety Leader as it relates to law enforcement officers. Thousands of officers and driving professionals have been trained by Michelin and the techniques described in this article have been conducted repeatedly with success. A Tire blow-out does not mean collision or tragedy. Law Enforcement Officers will continue to drive their vehicles in emergency situations and under adverse conditions. It is important that in the event of a tire blow-out, law enforcement officers have the knowledge to keep themselves and others safe.


About the author

Captain Travis Yates commands the Precision Driver Training Unit with the Tulsa, Okla. Police Department. He is a nationally recognized driving instructor and a certified instructor in tire deflation devices and the pursuit intervention technique. Capt. Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern State University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the owner of www.policedriving.com, a website dedicated to law enforcement driving issues and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community. You may contact Travis at Policedriving@yahoo.com.





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