The Investigators

Aug 13, 2014 12:03 AM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

N4T Investigators: Who is responsible for cleaning up tire debris?

If you drive on highways in Arizona, you've seen them, and dodged them, and hit them. We're talking those ugly chunks of tire debris littering the roadway.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to find out where they come from, and whose job is it to clean them up.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators recently got a tip from a Tucson driver who ending up having to pay for damages to her car, after hitting a piece of tire.

"I couldn't stop or swerve to avoid it, and I ended up hitting it head-on," said Patti DeConcini.

DeConcini learned firsthand the danger of road debris, when she hit a piece of tire, thrown off a semi driving in front of her on I-10.

"I knew it was a tire, and it was a big tire," DeConcini said.

Her run-in with that debris ended with a 13-hundred dollar repair bill, for damage to her car's bumper and undercarriage.

DeConcini is not alone. It's not hard to miss tire debris all along Arizona's highways, especially during the summer.

"Generally that does happen in Arizona because of the heat in the summertime a lot more often. And, it's not maybe a defect in the manufacture of the tire, but it's the temperature," said Ofc. Raul Molina, with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Some people refer to the old lost re-treads as alligators, and their bite can be just as scary as the real thing. Especially when you consider the cost to you and your car, from all the damage they can do. So, the question is: who is responsible for cleaning these up?

"I think adopt needs to be responsible to clean them up, but at the same time, I don't believe that the truckers should be able to use the re-treads," DeConcini said.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators spoke with an Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman about the issue of whose job it is to clean up tire debris.

"ADOT is primarily responsible for picking up litter along and on the state's highways. Now sometimes we'll need the help from DPS when litter or tire debris is in the travel lanes, we'll need their help to stop traffic, so we can get out there and get that debris. But, ADOT is responsible for picking up road debris," said Timothy Tait.

So, what about damage caused by the tire debris that ADOT does not pick-up? Is the state liable, then?

"Generally, ADOT is not responsible for damage to vehicles, as a result of roadway debris. There are some circumstances where the state might have a responsibility for that, but in general, it's not a state responsibility, because roadway debris happens," Tait said.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators also discovered that it's not likely that DPS will even cite drivers, who lose part of a tire, and don't pick it up, even if some might consider it littering.

"On tire debris, I mean, if it blows out, that's something that's not going to be intentional on the driver. It's just going to happen," Molina said.

"It's a risk, it's something that gonna ultimately possibly kill somebody," DeConcini said.

When it comes to tire failure in Arizona, the numbers are staggering. AAA estimates they'll respond to at least 20,000 tire-related calls, things like flats and blow-outs, this summer alone.

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.

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