The most important thing when you get a flat tire on the highway is getting to safety and avoiding a car accident. The driver, passengers, and your vehicle will be in danger if you don’t get out of the way of traffic. Drivers on Michigan highways are going in speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour and you do not want to get hit or cause an accident for the other drivers on the road.
You should carefully steer your vehicle to the shoulder of the road at a minimum and getting off the highway into a breakdown lane or exit ramp would be even better. The amount of control you have over the vehicle will determine the safest spot for you and your vehicle.
What Are The Specific Michigan Laws That Apply For Flat Tires?
Not only is getting off the lanes of travel safer for you, but it is also the law. Michigan MCL Section 257.676b(1) states that “(1) Subject to subsection (2), a person, without authority, shall not block, obstruct, impede, or otherwise interfere with the normal flow of vehicular, streetcar, or pedestrian traffic upon a public street or highway in this state, by means of a barricade, object, or device, or with his or her person. This section does not apply to persons maintaining, rearranging, or constructing public utility or streetcar facilities in or adjacent to a street or highway.”
The other law that impacts removing your vehicle from traffic is MCL 257.618a(1) and it states “(1) Unless the operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident knows or reasonably should know that serious impairment of a bodily function or death has resulted from the accident, the operator or any other occupant of the motor vehicle who possesses a valid driver license shall remove the motor vehicle from the main traveled portion of the roadway into a safe refuge on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median or to a place otherwise removed from the roadway, and, if the motor vehicle is located in a place that would block, delay, or otherwise interfere with the movement of a streetcar on a streetcar track, away from the streetcar track, if both of the following apply:
(a) Moving the motor vehicle may be done safely.
(b) The motor vehicle is capable of being normally and safely operated and can be operated under its own power in its customary manner without further damage or hazard to the traffic elements or to the roadway.”
Is a Flat Tire on The Highway Dangerous?
Yes, it can be very dangerous. If getting a blown tire on the highway has ever happened to you, you realize how dangerous it can be. If the tire that goes flat is on the front, it’s especially dangerous as the front tire are what you use to control and steer your vehicle. Traveling at high speeds and having your steering compromised is not a good situation.
You will likely notice a fast jerking motion in the steering wheel toward the direction of the flat tire and you will probably hear some sounds that will be concerning. This can cause you lose control and it can put you and the other drivers around you into a precarious situation. Another potentially dangerous situation is if you are towing a trailer and the trailer tires go flat. If it’s just the tire it might be less dangerous but a bearing going out can cause a major loss of control.
What Are The Common Causes Of a Flat Tire on The Highway?
There are all sorts of causes or reasons why you could have tire trouble or get a flat tire on the highway. The most common cause is simply running over something in the road. It could be a nail, screw, some piece of metal, parts from other vehicles left behind, or anything sharp that can puncture or get lodged into the tires of your vehicle. Regardless of the object, if you hit it in just the right way it can damage your tires and cause major issues.
The second most common cause for a flat tire on the highway is simple lack of maintenance. Tires are meant to last forever and they need to replaced several times over the lifespan of the vehicle. The tread can wear down to a dangerous level or just simply aging can cause a tire to literally rot and lead to flat tire. You should regularly inspect your tires, make sure they are inflated to the manufacturer specifications, and change them according to the mile estimate provided by the maker of the tire. You should have rotated regularly and should be inspected at this time. If you notice that the tires are not in good shape, don’t gamble. Just go ahead and replace the tires in a timely fashion.
How Long Can I Drive With a Flat Tire?
You should never attempt to drive on a flat tire, especially on the highway. Even driving a short distance on a flat tire puts you in a dangerous situation and can cause serious damage to your vehicle in a very short amount of time.
It may seem tempting and like a good idea, but do not drive on a flat tire except for getting your vehicle off the road and safely pull over. The end result will most likely be a poor one and costing yourself thousands of dollars in damage.
You should always replace the tire with a spare or have your car towed to a nearby tire or automotive shop.
What To Do When You Get A Flat Tire On The Highway
It’s important to know what to do in the case of getting a flat tire on the highway. While not a guarantee, if you manage to follow these steps it gives the best chance of having a safe outcome.
Grab The Steering Wheel Firmly
A flat tire will make steering your vehicle much more difficult. It’s crucial that you don’t panic and lose control of the vehicle. You still have 3 good tires and you should be able to regain control but you will need to take a firmer grip on the wheel.
The initial blowout will be unpredictable, but you will still have some control afterwards. Car tires are designed to function for a short period of time but the amount of control you have will depend if the tire blowout is the front tire or rear tire.
Slow Down Your Vehicle
Since you will have less control of your vehicle after a damaged tire, you will need to reduce your speed. Do not slam on your brakes as this can exaggerate the problem and it will be dangerous for those behind you given they are traveling at a high rate of speed. Overreacting will make it more dangerous for you and everyone else on the road.
The best thing to do is take your foot off the gas and gently apply the brake. While doing this you should put on your turn signal and change lanes. You should start looking for a safe spot to pull over while slowing down.
Pull Over To The Shoulder or Exit Ramp If Possible
The most important step is finding and steering your vehicle in a safe manner to pull over. Since you are on a busy highway such as I-96, I-69, or I-496, options are usually limited. Head to the shoulder of the highway or to an exit ramp if there is one close by. Try not to get too close to other vehicles while doing so. As mentioned previously, slow your vehicle down gently and engage your turn signal while doing so.
When pulling over onto a shoulder, try to get over as much as you can. Giving yourself more room to get out and change a tire will be to your advantage and safety.
Turn On Your Hazard Lights
Another crucial step after getting a flat tire on the highway is to engage your hazard lights or emergency flashers. This will alert the other drivers that you are having a mechanical problem and to steer clear. You should leave your emergency lights on the whole time even when you get to safety. The hazard lights will let them know that you have not abandoned your vehicle and to give you more room.
Call For Help If You Can’t Change The Tire Safely
If you are in an especially dangerous or busy section of highway, you should always call roadside assistance for help in the event of a flat tire on the highway. Even if you know to change a tire, it might not be safe to do so. Any drivers also don’t know how to change a tire and in this case, always call for tow truck for assistance. Trying to change a tire when you are unsure of how to do so can be dangerous both during and after the change. A tow truck will be able help you quickly and safely.
Change Your Tire If You Can Do So Safely
If you have secured a safe location away from traffic, are physically able, and know how to change a tire, you should be able to do it in a matter of minutes. That’s what spare tires are for! Help can sometimes take hours and the ability to change it yourself will avoid a major headache.
Once again, if you don’t know how to change a tire or don’t have the physical strength to do so, always call for assistance rather than creating a potentially dangerous situation.
How To Change a Tire Using a Spare Tire
The ability to change a flat tire on the highways that every driver should have. You hope that this situation doesn’t happen to you, but the odds are good that it will happen to you eventually if you drive for long enough.
Park in a Safe Spot With Plenty of Room
Changing a tire on the side of the highway is not ideal, but its a necessary evil. The key is to pull over far enough to keep yourself out of harms way. You will need some room to access the side of the vehicle depending on which tire is flat. Just remember to give yourself as much room as possible.
Gather All The Required Materials
Every vehicle should come with a jack and lug nut wrench. It’s a good idea to check this beforehand so you aren’t scrambling when the time comes and you need to access them. If you are unsure where they are, check your owner’s manual. Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly where the jack, lug nut wrench, and spare tire is located within your vehicle. Keeping a pair of gloves is also a good idea as the wheels and bearing can have sharp edges and be full of grease.
Loosen The Lug Nuts
Make sure to loosen the lug nuts before jacking up the frame of your vehicle. You will need the extra torque of the wheels being grounded as many lug nuts are on super tight. If you jack the vehicle up before trying to remove the lug nuts you will most likely you won’t be able to turn them. Also, reefing on your lugs while the car is jacked up is a recipe for disaster and possibly injury or damage to your vehicle. Do not completely remove the lug nuts, but loosen them.
Use a Jack To Raise Your Vehicle
Once you have loosened the lug nuts, it’s time to jack up your vehicle. Knowing beforehand where to place the jack is ideal and something every driver should know. Regardless, the best spot to jack up a vehicle is usually beneath the frame as close to the flat tire as possible.
Many vehicle manufacturers also have a molded plastic bottom that has an area of exposed metal specifically made to jack the vehicle. Another point of emphasis is to make sure the jack is on sturdy level ground. It’s about to have a good portion of the weight of the vehicle and you don’t want it to slip and fail.
Remove The Lugnuts
Now that the lug nuts are loose and the vehicle is jacked up, the tire should be spinning freely. It is now time to fully remove all the lug nuts. Make sure you keep them organized so you don’t misplace them as you will need to reuse them when installing the spare tire. Also note the orientation of the lugs so you don’t re-install them backwards.
Install The Spare Tire
It is now time to install the new tire. Simply lift the tire into place and reinstall the lugs nuts finger tight. You can go ahead and use your lug wrench to lightly tighten the lugs but do not make them super tight at this point. You will be tightening them fully once the vehicle is back on the ground.
Lower Vehicle and Tighten Lugnuts
You can now slowly lower the jack and remove it from under the vehicle. Take your lug wrench and tighten the lug nuts. Be sure to tighten them in a fashion where you tighten the lugs that aren’t right next to each other. Tighten one lug nut and then tighten the opposite one. This will ensure that the lug-nuts are seated evenly. You want them to be torqued quite tightly.
How To Avoid A Flat Tire On The Highway
There is no surefire way to avoid flat tires on the highway. That being said, there are a few things that you can do to minimize the likelihood of it occurring.
- Check your tires regularly
- Make sure you still have enough tread on the tires to be safe
- Make sure the tires are always inflated properly
- Avoid objects on the road
- Don’t overload your vehicle
- Rotate your tires regularly
- Slow down
- Look at your tire pressure monitoring system
- Think about using all weather tires
- Watch for potholes
Injured In a Car Accident After You or Someone Else Got a Flat Tire on The Highway? Call The Accident Attorneys at The Clark Law Office
If you or a passenger in your vehicle were injured after a flat tire occurs on the highway and you have questions regarding compensation for your injuries and vehicle, you can speak to our lansing car accident lawyers at (517) 347-6900.
We will answer any questions that you have for free and if you decide to hire us, you will not be charged unless you win your case. You can also text us, use the chat feature, or visit our contact page to get in touch with us.