Road Hazard Issues

Concern and complaints over Road Hazard Insurance and similar issues is frequent and common in the messages we receive at Tire Information World ...

To deal with this, let's first define clearly what are Road Hazards.  

A hazard can be anything on the surface of the road which could be dangerous or cause an accident. Size isn't a determining factor.  Road hazards could be physical defects in the road, such as potholes, sunken manhole covers and cracks and even temporary hazards like an oil spill or loose gravel.

Wikipedia even goes on to list some common types of road debris, which are all a forms of road hazards.  These include:

  • Particulates, dust, dirt, sand, and mud

  • Asphalt, concrete, pebbles, rocks/stones/boulders, etc.

  • Ice, snow, water (puddles or flooding), and other liquids like grease and engine oil

  • Plants and their parts: branches, leaves, sticks, twigs, etc.

  • Litter, food, furniture, mattresses, and other garbage/trash/waste

  • Glass, nails, screws, and other sharp objects

  • Auto parts, tire tread, lumber, construction supplies, etc.

  • Animal corpses

  • Vehicles

Tire Warranties

Of all the complaints or problems which people have related to tires one of the biggest areas is connected to how much responsibility tire companies, either the retailer or the tire manufaturer has when a tire user has a tire which fails.

Most manufacturer warranties only guarantee that a tire is free from manufacturing defects or from defective materials used in the tire.

As a person who has been trained to inspect and adjust tires which are defective I can tell you that it is extremely rare that tires which are defective will be sold to the public or even get out of the factory of a major tire company.

And, if a tire does get through the various testing and quality control process and actually reach the consumer public with some kind of defect, it is highly unlikely that that tire will not show signs of the defect almost as soon as the tire is put into use.

To put this into different terms:  If you have a problem with a tire which you have been using for more than a couple of months, or more than 500 miles, the chances that the problem is a result of a manufacturing defect is extremely low.  Not impossible, but highly unlikely.

Main Causes of Tire Failure

This leads us to the conclusion that there are two main causes of tire failure:

1) Insufficient or improper care and use of the tire or,

2) Road Hazards.

Other causes also include, but to a much lesser degree, mechanical defects in the vehicle, accidents, and deliberate damage such as vandalism.

We devote a great deal of attention to the care and use of tires throughout this website, so I will not dwell on it here so that we can concentrate on the area of road hazards.

This is not an insignificant cause of problems.  In a study done by the AAA not too long ago, they found more than 25,000 accidents a year were cause by road debris and concluded that at highway speeds even a small piece of debris can have deadly results.

Far too often, I see people complain that they just bought brand new XXX tires two months ago, used them only to drive to and from work on a well traveled highway and now the tire is failing and that brand of tire is garbage, because the manufacturer will not replace it ... claiming it is due to road hazards.

The car owner will swear that they never hit any pot holes, nor ran into any curb, or any big rocks, etc, so the tire must be defective and that the company is totally irresponsible to even dare sell such a product in this country!

The sad truth is that that given any make and modle of tire, under the circumstances that affected the vehicle probably would have had the same defect arise.  Read the list of road debris and the conclusions of the AAA study again.  Even small road debris can be deadly at high speeds.

You don't need to even be aware of having had your tire being damaged by running into something.  A small, sharp rock could be flung at the interior sidewall of a tire, or be lodged in the road in such a way to cause damage that you never feel when it happens, but it is enough to weaken the tire and produce a bubble that you notice a few days or weeks later.

In our tire repair facility we once made a collection of all the different things which had been removed from flat tires.  These ranged from the normal things like glass, and small nails, to large bolts, long sharp rocks, screwdrivers, wrenches, tree branches, wood fragments, etc.  These, of course were things that had actually penetrated a tire, but apart from these, many of these items might have only caused an internal damage to the tire structure if they hadn't penetrated completely.   Although these tires we repaired were an inconvenience, they were probably better off than the cases where there was only structural damage, because these tires don't fail right away.

The conclusion is that tires which fail due to road hazards, which are completely beyond the control of the tire company, are not likely to be replaced or adjusted with a discount on a replacement under their guarantee of tire quality.

Some manufacturers sometime will offer an all-hazards type of warranty for premium top-line tires as a way to encourage buyers to switch to or remain with that brand.  Even these, are likely to have some conditions and restrictions included, such as not using the tires for racing or competitions, certain kinds of vehicles and driving conditions may be excluded, etc.   Since the terms and conditions of these are not standard or wide-spread, you are wise to have a clear understanding of what they are and read the policy when you purchase them, rather than try to fight about them when an even occurs.

In my own personal experience, I have often had better than average results from insurance claims because I have clearly understood what coverage I was given and under what circumstances they applied.  In fact, I have even had damages paid for that the agent who sold me my insurance wasn't aware I had coverage for.  Why?  I read my policy ... he hadn't read it!


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