As temperatures rise, look out for 'gators' on the highway

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications

Road gators: jumble of old tire treads picked up off highways.

You've probably seen them as you drive, lurking along roadways or basking in the Arizona sun. Maybe you've seen Department of Public Safety troopers having to remove them from the road.

These are "gators," but not the kind you'd see in Florida. Road gators are the tire treads that wind up on roadways following a tire blowout. The amount of tire debris we see on the highway goes up as hotter weather sets in. In fact, these photos are from a recent trip to one of our Valley maintenance yards.

Road gators: jumble of old tire treads picked up off highways.

While road gators don't have up to 80 teeth or a bite that can snap with more than 2,000 pounds per square inch, they can be every bit as dangerous to drivers if they end up in the travel lanes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 700 people die every year in tire-related crashes.

Fortunately, there is something you can do to help keep gators off the road: Check your tires regularly.

Road gators: jumble of old tire treads picked up off highways.

Making sure your tires are not under- or overinflated can reduce the risk of blowouts. Also make sure that a vehicle's tires are properly maintained and rotated. Finally, checking a tire's tread and replacing it when it is too worn decreases the chance of a blowout.

Staying alert and being prepared for possible road hazards is essential. While DPS troopers often take on the potentially dangerous task of tossing road gators out of travel lanes and onto highway shoulders, ADOT crews do spot pickups of debris along busy Phoenix-area freeway shoulders and state highways throughout the year. Our sweeping contractors do regular weekly collection of larger debris items along Valley freeways, but as you can imagine it's impossible to immediately catch everything along the more than 6,300 miles of state highways.

As we said in a recent post, if a driver sees tire debris on the roadway, their first call should be to 911 to have it removed as soon as possible.