Hazard Ahead: Tips For Avoiding Road Debris

Never underestimate the destructive power of an inanimate object in the roadway. A shredded tire--or any large debris--poses significant risks to you and your vehicle.

Such was the case for motorists driving along the Glenmore Trail in Calgary in late February, when debris kicked up from the road collided with more than a dozen vehicles.

“You’re doing 80 kilometres, things happen very quickly, in the dark it’s more of a challenge. So I pulled over immediately. I was about the third car to pull over. While I was getting out of the car, just to take a look what happened, at least three to four more cars were hitting whatever it was that was on the road,” motorist Rick Malyszka told CTV News Calgary. “It was a piece of iron between three and four feet long that was…. laying on the road. By the time a few cars hit it, instead of being a nice straight piece, it was now the shape of a horse shoe.”

Sometimes there’s no avoiding an object in the road. A sharp swerve or emergency stop in heavy traffic isn’t an option because of surrounding vehicles. In that case, try to minimize the damage by striking the object in a controlled manner, said Bob Doupe, a maintenance superintendent for Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

“Your car will be damaged, but you’ll be safer than if you go in the ditch and roll your vehicle over,” Doupe told Jil McIntosh of the Toronto Star.

Doupe offers the following tips for spotting and avoiding road debris:

  • Leave a safe following distance: Leave several car lengths of distance between you and the vehicle you’re behind whenever possible to buffer against sudden stops.
  • Pay attention to those around you: Are the vehicles ahead swerving or slowing down to avoid something? Pay attention to their movements and react accordingly.
  • Minimize the damage: Slow down or straddle the debris with your vehicle if you simply can’t avoid the object. Swerving into another vehicle could cause significant harm.
  • Mind the road signs. Street sweepers and signs indicating road construction can mean debris in the roadway. Stay alert.