A tire blowout is not at all like getting a flat tire a blowout is potentially much more dangerous and involves a tire bursting, a loud noise and the tire's rapid loss of air. A blowout can be caused by a puncture, too much air pressure, too little air pressure or striking a curb, but blowouts are rare, and you've most likely never encountered one. Despite this fact, you must be ready when and if it does happen.
Blowouts have caused many officer injuries and have even been attributed to deaths. How you react when it occurs could be the difference between a tragedy and a simple inconvenience.
Prevention is the easiest strategy. Properly inflating tires, monitoring their wear and inspecting them daily are the best ways to avoid a tire blowout.
The loud booming sound of a blowout can cause the driver to react in a dangerous way. Jerking the steering wheel, braking and steering have proven to make the situation even more hazardous.
Following a blowout, vehicles tend to pull towards the deflated tire. Officers should slightly accelerate to preserve momentum and to counteract the pulling of the vehicle.
Steering should remain straight and firm until the vehicle stabilizes. Once the vehicle stabilizes, the officer can gently slow down and ease the vehicle off the road, out of the way of traffic.
It's not easy to train how to properly react to these incidents because most courses are unable to simulate an actual tire blowout. Last year, I traveled to Michelin's Laurens Proving Grounds in Mountville, South Carolina and experienced tire blowouts at highway speeds. While I have spoken about the prevention of them in the past, until that day I've never had the opportunity to practice what I had preached.
Tires were sacrificed throughout the day as instructors drove vehicles fitted with explosives attached to the tire sidewalls. These blowouts occurred without any warning to the driver, and the reaction suggestions mentioned above proved to be useful and highly accurate.
Travis Yates is a captain with the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Department and heads up the department's precision-driving unit. His Web site, www.policedriving.com, is dedicated to EVOC.