Wednesday, September 27, 2023


(Road) Gators ahead!

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Road gators. We’ve all seen them, and often had to dodge them. Those big old ugly chunks of tire tread lurking out there on the interstates and highways of the country. Mostly they just lay there, but sometimes, with a little nudge from a passing vehicle, they fly up in the air and do serious damage to body work and windshields. More often, the unfortunate driver who can’t avoid them hits them, and suffers under-body damage, torn up tires of their own, even gashed fuel tanks.

How to deal with a road gator

So what’s the best way to deal with an unexpected road gator? Insurance outfit Allstate has a great interest in seeing fewer gator-vehicle interactions. To that end, the company posted tips on their blog, helping drivers get the hang of gator-dodging.

Heads up: If you see chunks of rubber in front of you, increasing in size, suspect a rig ahead of you has let loose a gator. If you see a big-rig hitting the shoulder up ahead, there’s another “take warning” tip. Another tip-off? Sudden brake light action may indicate other drivers on safari.

Slow it down: Swerving to avoid a gator can put you in danger. SLOW IT DOWN before you swerve. Keep control of your rig, don’t lose it. Results of loss-of-control can be a lot worse than smacking the gator.

Get around the big rigs: When you pass a big rig, you stand a better chance of a close encounter of the “rubber reptilian” kind. So don’t cruise along beside a big rig needlessly, especially if you sense the tell-tale sounds of tire corruption: “Whop, whop, whop, whop” is a signal of a possible gator-producing tire separation.

Watch your shoulder: If the lane ahead of you is occupied by a ghastly gator, the shoulder may be an out. But don’t do a quick swerve there – ease your shoulder-side tires off the lane, but keep the other tires on the lane. And look out! There could be other gators lurking on the shoulder. Smoothly move the rig back into the lane once you’re past the danger.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


  1. Ha! Had to laugh. Been in Florida for over 50 years and have never seen a gator (alligator) on the road. However did run over a big chunk of tire on I-75 in Georgia. Pulled off next exit and crawled under and checked ehaust system, brake lines, etc. Slightly bent rear fender. Gators – ha ha

  2. 33 years of driving semi has taught me a few things. The first three, DRIVE DEFENSIVELY! DRIVE DEFENSIVELY! DRIVE DEFENSIVELY! Keep your speed in a safe range for the type of vehicle you are driving (if you are driving a motor home or pulling any type of trailer do not get in a hurry). Always, always give yourself room to stop, the heavier the rig the longer the distance. If you can not stand running 60 – 65 and you go faster with M.H. or towable, it matters not who you are, you are an accident looking for a place to happen! Slow down, enjoy the scenery, and BE SAFE!! Happy trails to all! Stay Safe.

    • Amen and Amen. Don’t let you’re destination be your focus, enjoy the journey to your destination. Slow down and live to enjoy you vacation.

  3. When I hear the “thumping” from a truck in front or beside of me, I either slow down to a safe distance, or try to pass them quickly. That’s the first sign of a tire getting ready to shred.
    Telltale signs of small gator pieces usually means there are more up ahead.

  4. In the years I drove semi’s I shuddered every time a vehicle passed me very slowly as maybe they were cruising 1-2 mph faster than me. Trucking companies spend as little as they can on trailer tires as these get stolen many times when a trailer is left at a shipper/consigned very long. Most are recaps that may not have been recapped by a quality company and “may pop” at any time. Never take your time passing a semi, speed up, but get past the trailer tires as fast as possible.

  5. While this site and this article are aimed toward RVs, this idea can be extended to those who drive regular vehicles.
    The number one item that should have been on the list: DO NOT tailgate. When driving a class A, most of us (as an RV community) leave about 10 seconds from the vehicle in front allowing us to see objects in the road. However, if you tailgate, you will not have the luxury of time to go around the object.

    • This, I have found to be the most effective means of avoiding gators. Keeping a sufficient distance between you and the truck ahead of you will provide you with ample time to see and make adjustments safely. Just this week we were coming down I-5 in Oregon when I spotted a large gator about 50 yards ahead of me right in the middle of my lane. Unfortunately, vehicles behind me was bunched up waiting for traffic in the left lane to open up so that they could pass me. I slowed and moved over and had my passenger side tires on the shoulder (past the rumble line) and was able to miss the gator by a foot or so. Several vehicles behind me, not being able to see the gator, hit the large piece of tire rubber and other behind the first two or three were taking dangerous evasive action causing others to also almost causing a chain reaction accident. Someone was looking out for those tailgating fools as all escaped without mishap.


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