While most drivers in North Carolina know what a gator is, some have been fortunate enough to never cross paths with a road gator.
What is a road gator?
A road gator is the detritus left when a tire, usually a semi or tractor trailer tire, blows out. The ridged texture of the blown-out tire can resemble an alligator lying in the road.
Why are road gators deadly?
We all know why gators are dangerous, but road gators may be even more deadly since they do not scramble off the road when a car or motorcycle approaches.
Road gators cause more damage than real gators to North Carolina cars and drivers. A road gator can slice open your oil pan, tear off your steering components, or become airborne and crash through your windshield. Any of these could cause you to lose control of your car and crash.
What to look for
If you are on a highway, freeway or roadway that is frequently traveled by large trucks or semis be on the lookout for road gators, especially during hot summer months. If you hear "whap, whap, whap," sounds or howling when near a big rig, these can be signs that the truck's tire is about to blow.
Why semi-truck tires blow out
There are a number of reasons a big rig's tire may blowout. Here are the most common:
- The tire is defective and are part of a recall
- The tire is a retread, which are more likely to blow out
- Proper tire maintenance was not done
- An error in manufacturing caused the tire to malfunction
What to do when a semi has a suspicious tire
Stay far behind the truck and avoid passing it as the tire may blow as you are gaining speed and will not have time to avoid it.
If you can pull off of the road for a few minutes you can create a large time- space lag between you and the truck. This will allow you to expect and see the pieces of the tire on the pavement or a larger gator that is lying in wait just around the bend.
The best way to handle a road gator is slow down, use the shoulder if you have to, and carefully maneuver around it.