Since June 27-July 3 is National Tire Safety Awareness Week, an annual event sponsored by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, we thought ADOT could offer up some safety advice related to keeping an eye out for what many of us see out along our Arizona highways: pieces of tire debris.
Those shreds of treads have gained the nickname “gators” over the decades because many of them look like an alligator’s back floating on the water’s surface. While alligators are primarily limited to zoos in the Grand Canyon State, there are plenty of “gators” waiting for unsuspecting — or for that matter even suspecting — drivers along the state’s network of highways.
ADOT gets plenty of help from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and its troopers in responding to tire treads and also reminding drivers to stay alert to tire pieces and other debris that can wind up on highways.
And without a doubt, there are things all of us as motorists can do to help reduce the risk of tire blowouts and the creation of Arizona gators.
Obviously, hotter summer weather can lead to more tire failures and debris, but it’s a year-round challenge. DPS troopers are kept busy tossing tire gators to a highway’s shoulder, possibly as they’re conducting traffic breaks (temporary stops of traffic) in order to clear debris.
ADOT’s team of Incident Response Unit, sponsored by State Farm, members and maintenance crews also respond to calls about debris. However, it’s impossible to catch everything immediately along more than 6,500 miles of state highways.
“We’re obviously very familiar with gators,” said Raul Amavisca, ADOT’s Central District engineering administrator. “We need all drivers to pay attention, keep their eyes on the road and be prepared for debris at any time. If you do that, you’ll increase your chances of being able to maneuver and avoid a tire tread and the damage it can cause.”
ADOT crews do spot pickups of roadside shoulder debris along busy Phoenix-area freeways throughout the year. The agency’s freeway shoulder sweeping contractors also maintain weekly schedules for collecting larger debris items along those shoulders in advance of their overnight street sweeping work.
As for things you can do about your own vehicle’s tires, here is some information from a USTMA news release about this year’s National Tire Safety Week: “U.S. tire manufacturers recommend drivers check tire pressure at least monthly, regularly check tire tread depth and ensure vehicle tires are rotated and properly aligned. Proper maintenance and periodic inspections by a tire professional are essential for optimum performance and service life of tires and can help ensure lower overall inspection impacts.
USTMA also offers the following safety advice: “To help motorists remember these important tire maintenance actions, USTMA encourages drivers to remember the acronym “PART” – pressure, alignment, rotation and tread. Tire safety essentials are especially important this year as significant numbers of motorists are back in their cars embarking on summer road trips.”
ADOT echoes the summer road trip safety recommendation, especially as we look ahead to the Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday weekends. Plan ahead, pack an emergency prep kit, check your vehicle for things such as tire pressure and condition. Don’t forget extra drinking water and other items that can help if an unscheduled stop in traffic occurs.
Expect the unexpected, even if that includes a “gator.”
Editor’s note: Doug Nintzel is a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Visit azdot.gov.
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