Why you should never change your tire on the freeway

This piece could literally be one paragraph or one sentence: Changing your tire yourself on the interstate is just too dangerous — don’t do it. We see people get flats quite often from the WSB Skycopter and in the WSB Traffic Center. Fortunately, most call the HERO units operated by the Georgia Department of Transportation, AAA, the police, or another roadside service agency.

Some brave people actually stoop down with their backs to traffic and change the tire themselves. And every once in a while, that goes terribly wrong.

This past Wednesday, 20-year-old David Wesley took matters into his own hands at 5 a.m. on the I-285/northbound ramp to I-85/northbound at Spaghetti Junction in DeKalb County. A passerby struck him as he changed his left-rear tire, killing him at the scene.

The driver stopped and police closed the ramp for over two hours, while they investigated. His girlfriend, Sarina Ivory, says he had changed his own tire before and had said he would text her when he got the tire on and got to work safely. That text never came.

Road fatalities are on the rise in Georgia and GDOT attributes at least some of this spike to distracted driving. We have heard recently of numerous instances of drivers plowing into the back of first responders’ vehicles. These trucks and cars are ablaze with flashing lights and arrows. The responders themselves often have on reflective vests and light-colored clothing. But regardless of their visibility, they still get hit — even when they are out of travel lanes. Imagine how easily a civilian without all the bright lights and clothing can go unnoticed.

Considering the amount of roadside services available, there simply is no reason anyone should stop and change their own tire on a freeway or a busy road. The danger is too high. With a simple dial of either 511 or 911, HERO units or police officers will gladly and often quickly arrive to at least provide flashing lights and a buffer for someone to change a flat. In most cases, they will change it themselves. For a nominal fee every year, AAA will do the same.

If you must stop on the interstate and you’re waiting for help, the safest place is inside the vehicle and not wandering on the shoulder.

Aside from the free services GDOT and local police departments offer, most car insurance packages include some sort of 24-hour road service assistance. This leaves little to no excuse for any of us, no matter how independent or mechanically inclined, to change our tires without any kind of aid.

The next time your tire goes flat, as mine did on my wife, Sarah’s, birthday no less, try and nurse the vehicle to a side road or parking off the next exit.

In these times of maybe the clumsiest driving in this 100-plus year history of the automobile, this is the only safe and smart thing to do.

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Mark Arum is off this week. Doug Turnbull is the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95.5 FM and AM 750 WSB and manager of the WSB Traffic Team. He writes his own traffic blog on wsbradio.com.

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