‘Dangerous road hazard’: Texas police warn motorists of tire-flattening spikes scattered on major highway


Published 9:40 p.m. ET July 21, 2020 | Updated 11:25 p.m. ET July 21, 2020


A weapon used for centuries is endangering motorists on a major roadway in Texas.

Caltrops, sometimes called “stop spikes,” have been recovered by police in the state along Interstate 20 throughout July. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office on July 9 reported more than 30 were recovered over a week. Local news outlets reported more were found Tuesday. 

The I-20 is known as the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The spiked caltrops have been found roughly 100 miles east of Dallas.

“This device is a tire deflation device and is a prohibited weapon by the Texas Penal Code,” the sheriff’s office said on its Facebook page. “A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells a tire deflation device. This offense is a state jail felony.”

According to the CIA, “A caltrop is a device—usually made out of metal—with four spikes arranged in such a way that when any three spikes rest on the ground, the fourth points upward.”

The agency added, “Caltrops are very useful in slowing the advance of troops attacking by vehicle or animal — horses, camels, and war elephants.”

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Even in the absence of war elephants in The Lone Star State, caltrops are “a dangerous road hazard,” according to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

The caltrops were found in the eastern part of the state, on I-20 between Smith County and Van Zandt County. 

“These devices are made of rebar and are approximately three inches in size,” the Smith County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a July 9 Facebook post. “They are welded, sharpened at every point and painted black. Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews have stepped up debris collection in an ongoing effort to remove this dangerous road hazard.”

The Tyler Morning Telegraph and KLTV in Texas both reported more caltrops were found Tuesday. The additional caltrops were also found on I-20 and in Smith County. 

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The Smith’s County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY. 

Caltrops have been used as early as 331 B.C., according to the CIA’s website. 

“Caltrops have been used throughout history in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the New World,” according to the CIA. “However, caltrops are often overlooked in favor of more impressive warfare weaponry, such as bombs or poison gas.

“The unfortunate soul who stumbles across a caltrop during battle has healthy fear and respect for the silent weapon.”


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