Wheel separation incidents pose danger, go unreported

Solomons, MD - Earlier this month a reader sent a message to detailing an incident that occurred on the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge early Thursday evening, Feb. 9. The messenger, a St. Mary’s County resident, stated that he and his son were driving north on Route 4 headed for the bridge, crossing into Calvert County. As they approached the span, the vehicle in front of them—a Chrysler Caravan—was moving “erratically and kept pulling to the left. It almost hit a few cars in the oncoming lane [southbound Route 4]. Then as we approached the bridge we smelled rubber burning. The van slowed down but wouldn’t pull over and continued to go over the bridge. Their front driver-side tire was flat and was coming off the rim. The smell got worse and I could see their front, driver-side tire wobbling. It kept getting worse and before we reached the top and center of the bridge the tire flew off their van right into the other lane with an oncoming car. The tire hit the front of the southbound car and it [tire] got stuck under the car. The van driver still kept going across the bridge with sparks flying everywhere. Finally we reached the end of the bridge and the driver took the first ramp to the right towards Solomons Island. We continued north on Route 4.”

The messenger told that the tire separation occurred at 6:19 p.m. checked with local law enforcement and a spokesman at the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office a traffic complaint was received by way of a 9-1-1 call for “tire lying in middle of road at peak of the bridge.” The sheriff’s office spokesman stated “the tire was moved off the bridge to the St. Mary’s side.” A deputy was dispatched to investigate the incident but no further information is available.

In 2015 a Chicago television station did an investigative report which noted that of all the highway hazards often cited by safety experts “flying tires from moving trucks and cars are not atop the warning list.” Many highway safety experts affirm that “projectile tires rarely happen.” However, in 2014, two incidents—one in Indiana and the other in Wisconsin—resulted in the deaths of two motorists.  The TV station—WLS—acknowledged after its investigative team concluded its research that the incidents appear to be rare but they also go largely unreported.

Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board does not keep track of such incidents.

An engineer from MEA Forensic told WLS that “at least 50,000 times a year in North America wheels will fall off vehicles.”

Contact Marty Madden at

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