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Runaway Tires: Wheels Gone Rogue

Updated on March 18, 2013

Last night, I watched a fairly terrible movie from a couple of years ago that, nevertheless, packed a whole lot of charm to it, called Rubber. This film tells the absolutely ridiculous story of a murdering, rampaging, sentient tire that stalks one poor woman in a small California desert town. There's a good bit more to that story, but none of it makes much sense — the point is, this tire is tired of being given the runaround (couldn't resist, sorry).

Real-Life Rubber

Obviously, the seemingly spirit-possessed, evil-tire shenanigans of Rubber are about as fictional as fiction can possibly get. But watching this silly French movie made me start thinking, just how dangerous can a tire really be? After just a few minutes of research, I got my answer: very. The likelihood of a rogue-tire accident happening to you or your vehicle are clearly quite low, but accidents, as we all know, do happen — and, when they do, a loose tire flying through the air at 100 miles per hour is going to do a bit of damage.

So, in honor of Rubber (it's on Netflix instant, and it's well worth a watch!), I collected a few of the craziest and sometimes grimmest stories of real-life runaway tires. These wild wheels won't be making the top of anyone's list of scariest movie monsters anytime soon, but these are fascinating stories and all-too-true accounts of tires gone rogue — and maybe next time you need new tires, you should spring for the premium ones.

NASCAR Tire Launched into Stands

The Daytona International Speedway in Florida has obviously seen a lot of destruction in its time. But some of the most amazing footage of the toll the frequent car crashes can take, in the time of writing this, just happened this past February, when a loose tire flew through the barricading fence and into the stands — to land right on top of one poor soul, just a few feet down from one 16 year old with a rolling video camera. You can watch the first-hand video here, though be warned, some of the language is NSFW.

The collective debris wound up injuring 33 people, and if it weren't for one Good Samaritan who thought to turn his shirt into a tourniquet, the man who got a mouthful of rubber could have bled out. Rubber is something of a laughing matter — this, of course, isn't. Thankfully, there were no fatalities in this accident, and hopefully, this incident will cause NASCAR to rethink their safety measures to never let this happen again. At the speeds racecars go on an everyday basis, one of their runaway tires wouldn't be something to mess around with.

Semi-Truck Wheel Checks in to Hotel

This story also comes to us from Florida, and is a little more on the light-hearted side — no one in this situation was seriously injured. One Sunday afternoon, on the Sunshine State-spanning I-75, a tire came loose from a passing semi-truck. Normally, this would be the end of the story. But, like the killer wheel in Rubber, this particular tire seemed to have a mind of its own: The sizeable, smoking wheel rolled off the overpass and bounced off the hood of a car below, then rolled through the conference room of a hotel, nearly running over one most assuredly confused man. Whether you were the truck driver, the flattened car owner or the almost-pancaked hotel visitor, seeing that rogue tire barreling off on its own must have been one heck of a shock!

Deadeye Tire Takes Cross-Country Illinois Road Trip

Someone probably lost their job over this: Two man were changing a tire on their semi-truck in Woodstock, IL, when the new wheel started to roll downhill on U.S. Highway 14. They never did catch up with that tire — it rolled just over 10 miles south down the highway and through a few farmers' fields, all to come to a stop as it struck one man who was just crossing the street to pick up his prescription from a local pharmacy in Crystal Lake, IL. The man was, miraculously, unharmed, but imagine the surprise on his face when he learned that the giant hunk of rubber had taken the 10-mile trip to Crystal Lake just to ruin his day! I wonder if all the tires Woodstock has are this self-motivated.

Mystery Tire Bounces Off Car, Falls Through Roof

In the definition of the term "freak accident," one wheel gone wild — which no one can identify for sure except that it likely, once again, came off a semi-truck — hit a car on Philadelphia's Schuylkill Expressway, and somehow had enough velocity and enough bounce to go so high off the car that it came crashing down through the roof of a nearby one-story building. The insanity of this story goes even deeper: There were reportedly 20-30 people in the building in question, but not a single one (not even the unfortunate woman driving the struck car) was hurt. There have to be very few weirder ways to start your day than seeing a tire crash through the ceiling.

Don't Let Rubber Happen to You

While I mostly focused on the more amusing runaway-tire stories, with minimal injuries, that have hit the news in the past few years, you should know that loose wheels have caused a good many serious injuries and even deaths on and off the highways. In all likelihood, you will never live to see an unmanned tire rolling furiously toward you, but all the same, nothing's ever unlikely enough that you shouldn't take precautions: Most of these kinds of injuries don't happen in French horror flicks, they happen on the side of highways, so if you need to get out on the interstate to fix a problem with your car, just make sure you're watching your back and only staying out in the open for as little time as you possibly can. Because a rogue tire will probably be moving just as fast as the automobile that lost it, and the last thing you'd want is to get in its way.


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