TIP #4 – Dealing With a Flat Tire on the Highway

In years gone by, the situation on the highway was much different than it is now. As a young sailor, I hitchhiked many hundreds of miles. Later, driving on the open highway, when I had a problem, I wasn’t greatly alarmed. Even with my family with me, I felt little sense of danger.

Things are different these days. To be sure, there are many “Good Samaritan” folk on the roads today and some of them have helped me. I have helped others over the years. But, due to an increased crime rate and a very independent public, hurrying on their way, a car problem on the open highway can be a serious matter.

Though automobiles are much more dependable these days and problems fewer, a flat tire is still not an uncommon experience. Here is how I recommend such a problem be handled. If you are a man in good health and acquainted with you car and tire changing techniques you may not want to follow my advice here. But for older folk and women traveling alone, here is what I recommend.

When you have a car disabled with a flat tire you can, of course, pull to the side of the road, place a white cloth out your window or raise your car hood and hope for help. If you have a phone with you, then you can try to contact a tow truck or gain help some other way. Here is the problem: While you await help, you do not have your choice as to who stops and offers “assistance.”

If it is nighttime or on a lonely stretch of highway, you may be in some danger. I do not recommend that you remain stopped and wait for help. Most highways, particularly major ones, have a wide paved berm. Often they are striped to indicate that they are to be used for emergencies only. When you realize you may have a flat tire, of course, you will want to pull safely to the right onto the berm and, with your emergency flashers activated, carefully inspect for the problem.

As an alternative to simply waiting for someone to appear who may or may not have your best interests in mind, when you have a tire problem, here is what I have taught my wife to do: With your emergency lights activated and staying well clear of the driving lane, drive your car very slowly to a point you are sure is safe to exit the car. You may ask, “Won’t that ruin the tire?” Yes, the tire, in such cases is finished. However, very often driving only to a stop from highway speeds on a flat tire will already have ruined the tire. You and your safety are more important than a $50 tire.

If you sense you are far from an interchange where you may obtain help, you may have to drive some distance on a flat tire. The two most important things are: 1) Drive very, very slowly. Two or three miles per hour is still progress. Any schedule you previously had is now a thing of the past. Your present safety is the issue. 2) Be absolutely sure you do not interfere with traffic in any way. Your full and most vigilant attention must be given to this emergency driving. Stay as far from the driving lane as you can.

If you encounter a law-enforcement officer during your emergency drive, he or she will offer help which you should accept. If you are approached by someone appearing to be law enforcement but with a vehicle that is not so marked, I would, myself, not stop. Anyone can buy a flashing red light. Unfortunately, there are criminal-types who masquerade as “helpers” who ply the highways for victims. Rather than being one of them, it would be better to look unappreciative to a well-meaning stranger, if it comes to that.

“But I could damage the wheel rim too, couldn’t I?” Yes, you could but unless you had to drive a good number of miles, you can control the car at very slow speeds without much collateral damage. For my part, I would greatly prefer a ruined tire and a damaged rim to what might happen should my wife stop and ask help from the wrong person!

Drive safely!

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