SALT LAKE CITY — You're traveling I-15 to work when you notice debris on the road. Vehicles surrounding you make it impossible to swerve and avoid it.
Sure enough, a few seconds later your car shakes and tires smack the road as the air rushes out.
Traffic blows by in the lane to your left, and your car quivers with every passing semitrailer.
What should you do?
Dos and Don'ts
Michael Blasky, AAA spokesman for Utah, encourages people to be prepared for a breakdown by carrying traffic cones, water and a tire pressure gauge in their cars, especially during the summer.
"You really want to make sure when you're going out that you're not overinflated because of the summer heat or you're not underinflated," he said.
If you do break down, don't panic, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Lawrence Hopper says.
"Too many people, when they have blown tires, they jam their brakes or they lose control of their vehicle somehow," Hopper said.
He says to take your foot off the gas and "gradually" slow down, signalling to other drivers you're moving to the right-hand shoulder.
Troopers encourage drivers to stop on the right shoulder, but if traffic makes it impossible, Hopper says to move to the left shoulder.
"Be safe, whether that means pulling to side of the road, or if that's not safe, get to nearest exit to a place where they can safely pull over," he said.
Once on the shoulder, turn your hazard lights on and call 911, Hopper said.
A lot of people don't think having a flat tire is an emergency, but "indeed it is," the sergeant said. He says that, while stopped on the freeway, you should not try to change your tire but instead should wait until help arrives.
"You've got traffic going by you at 70 miles an hour. If somebody isn't paying attention and veers into the shoulder and hits the person with the flat tire, then we have a bigger problem than just the flat tire," he said.
Hopper said people have been hit and killed while they were out of their cars changing a tire on the freeway.
Among Utah accidents of that kind within the past few years:
• In 2015, a man's tire blew out on Bangerter Highway in West Valley City, causing his car to spin and hit the center divider. When another person stopped to help him, the man got out of his car and tried to run across the road. He was hit and killed by another car.
• In 2016, two brothers in Magna were standing near a truck pulled to the side of the road on state Route 201 when they were hit and killed by another vehicle that drifted off the road.
• A man was struck and died on the I-15 near St. George in January while he tried to cross the road on foot after crashing his vehicle.
• In March, a man in South Salt Lake was killed after crashing into the left and right barriers on I-15 and then getting out of his vehicle, trying to run across traffic lanes.
After you call 911, a trooper or a member of Utah Department of Transportation's Incident Management Team will come and help change your flat, or provide traffic control with their flashing lights.
In May, the Incident Management Team helped about 1,600 motorists whose vehicles broke down on freeways in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties, according to Jeff Reynolds, roadway safety manager for the team.
The team has had 12 trucks but is doubling its capacity with 12 additional trucks throughout the state starting in July to help keep Utah's roads clear of hazards, Reynolds said.
Alternatively, AAA and other roadside services are often included in insurance plans and can come to assist motorists who are broken down.
"We want people to realize it isn't too serious unless they make it that way. And doing the wrong thing can make it serious," Hopper said.
If a car breaks down in the middle of the road and you can't get out of the road, don't leave your car, the sergeant cautioned.
"People can't estimate how fast a car is going just by looking at it," he said.
As with flat tires, Hopper says to call 911, tell the dispatcher you're in the middle of a travel lane in an unmovable vehicle, and troopers will get there as soon as they can.
When someone else breaks down
"I do not encourage them to stop and help. I know that here in Utah, it's just kind of our M.O. to pull over and help," Hopper says.
However, stopping to assist someone stopped on the road can cause a greater hazard because then two people are on the side of the road instead of just one, he explained.
Additionally, sometimes people pull over to lure passers-by and then "assault or rob them," Hopper said.4 comments on this story
He says if you see someone who needs help, call 911 and tell the dispatcher a car is broken down and the location of the car to make it "safer for everyone."
The sergeant also cautions people to follow the "Move Over" law, which requires motorists to move to the next lane if it's clear while passing officers and emergency vehicles, including tow trucks with amber lights on.
Motorists aren't legally required to move over when they see a regular car's hazard lights, but it's "the courteous thing to do," to give those vehicles space, Hopper said.