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Tire Blow-Out Precedes Man’s Fall From Florida Bridge

A 43-year-old man was lucky to be alive, let alone escape with only minor injuries, after he lost his balance on the Sunshine Skyway bridge while changing a tire, sending him plunging over a railway and down about 30 feet to the water below.

Authorities say the man stopped on I-275 after the a tire blow-out on his sport utility vehicle caused him to lose control of the vehicle temporarily. The two passengers inside his vehicle at the time were not injured.

However, officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were called to rescue the man, who was then taken to a nearby hospital. The Florida Highway Patrol has launched an investigation.

Although it doesn’t appear based on known facts the tire blow-out directly caused the man’s injuries in this case, we do know that but for the tire blow-out, he would not have been stopped outside his vehicle at the edge of a bridge.

According to a detailed report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012, tire deficiencies are a major cause of traffic collisions in Fort Lauderdale and throughout the country.

The term “tire deficiency” refers to not just tire blowouts (flat tires), but wheel or tire deficiencies, wheel or tire failure and tire degradation.

In analyzing crash data from 2005 through 2007, researchers uncovered a number of factors that increased the likelihood that deficient tires would cause a wreck. Specifically, it was more likely a crash would occur if one or more tires was underinflated or if the vehicle was running on tires that lacked an adequate tread depth.

These factors were further exacerbated when the driver was either inexperienced or not familiar with that vehicle in particular.

Tires that are underinflated result in sluggish handling, increased stress to other tire components, heat buildup and the need for longer stopping distances. All of this can result in the “catastrophic failure” of a tire, i.e., a blowout.

The NHTSA further gleaned information indicating approximately 12 percent of all U.S. passenger vehicles on the road today have at least one tire that’s underinflated by 25 percent or more.

Another issue that can diminish the quality of a tire is simply age. Tires are made of rubber, and they tend to break down over time. These happens even faster in Florida, particularly in the summer, because heat accelerates the process.

So even if a tire looks like it has a decent amount of tread left on it, if the tire is aged, its integrity is still probably compromised. The scary part about this is a tire’s age isn’t often physically detectable. It should be noted that tires can age even if they aren’t driven on frequently. So it’s still a concern for spare tires and those on vehicles not frequently used.

It’s estimated that during the two-year study time frame, 90 people died and an additional 3,200 are injured every year in crashes where aging tires were a factor.

In a sense, the man who stumbled over the bridge that day was lucky because injuries sustained in a crash resulting from a tire blow-out could have been far worse.

Drivers and vehicle owners are encouraged to follow the recommended tire pressure for the vehicle (located in the owner’s manual), understanding you are likely to lose 1 psi every single month. Check the inflation and tread of tires on infrequently-used vehicles as well. Also, monitor the tread all tires. Anything less than 2/32 is too low.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Bradenton man falls 30 feet from Sunshine Skyway into water while changing tire on bridge, May 4, 2015, Bay News

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Towe v. Sacagawea Inc. – Motorcycle Accident Liability on Private Property, April 10, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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