MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It can happen in an instant--a tire blows and your car flies out of control. It happened on I-85 one week ago.
A pick-up truck blew a tire. It started a sequence of collisions that killed a passenger in an 18-wheeler.
It's accidents like this Alabama State Troopers are trying to prevent, especially when it comes to the big rigs.
While eyewitnesses say last week's wreck wasn't caused by the 18-wheeler involved, there may be a good reason for it. State troopers perform roughly 5,000 tractor trailer inspections every month to make sure the trucks are safe on the roadways.
"I'm watching the driver, but I'm also looking at the truck for any defects," says Lt. Mike Junkin.
With more than 25 years experience, Junkin is trained to inspect tires, brakes, lights, and mirrors on semis--all in an effort to prevent accidents.
"We're looking to see if the tire is worn, under inflated, over inflated. We're looking for obvious cracks in the rim and any missing or loose fasteners," he says.
Junkin says most semis pass the inspection because their companies require them to follow federal regulations.
"The majority of the trucks we check are in good working order and the drivers are doing what's right."
Even Gene Vonderau with the Alabama Trucking Association says of the more than 500 trucking companies in the organization, only a handful are currently facing inspection violations.
"We probably got four or five that are having issues, but they're pretty easily corrected and the management of those companies are very compliant with it," says Vonderau.
"A lot of the accidents that involve commercial vehicles are caused by the way passengers interact with commercial vehicles," adds Junkin.
"If you stop in front of us and we can't stop, you know what's going to happen," says Mark Tidwell.
Tidwell is a full-time truck driver who is often stopped for state trooper inspections.
While he knows 18-wheelers can cause wrecks, he believes other drivers hold the key to tractor trailer safety, too.
"Don't hang beside them or try to stay right behind them to hang with them because if a tire blows and you're right there with it, it's gonna sling it to the back," says Tidwell.
If a trooper finds a violation, he sends that report to the truck company. The company must fix the truck before it can be dispatched again.
State troopers recently started a program targeting motorists who drive aggressively around 18-wheelers. If they catch you doing it, you could get a ticket.