Tires – One of the Biggest Safety Threats in a Vehicle

Tires.  They’re not something any of us give much thought to.  You have them on your car and your car gets you from point A to point B because they are on there.  And no one likes buying them or, more importantly, paying for them.

However, according to a report performed by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2003, an estimated 414 fatalities, 10,275 non-fatal injuries, and 78,392 crashes occurred annually due to flat tires or blow outs before tire pressure monitoring systems were installed in vehicles. More importantly, NHTSA discovered that the percentage of vehicles experiencing tire problems is significantly higher among vehicles that rolled over as compared to vehicle that did not roll over.  Approximately 9% of the over 2 million crashes studied by NHTSA were “tire-related” crashes with 50% of those being single vehicle crashes.

Taking care of your tires is an essential part of staying safe in your vehicle.  Here are some tips to insure you keep the tires safe on your vehicle:

  • Check tire pressure regularly (at least once a month), including the spare, especially before you go on any trip over 250 miles. Underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure.  It increases fuel consumption.  It causes your tires to wear out sooner.  It can cause tread separation.
  • Inspect tires for uneven wear patterns on the tread, cracks, bumps or chunks in the sidewall, foreign objects, or other signs of wear or trauma. Remove bits of glass and other foreign objects wedged in the tread.  External plugs are generally not recommended but, instead, all repairs should be made from the interior of the tire.
  • Rotate and balance tires every 6,000 miles or according to the owner’s manual.  Tire rotation keeps the tires wear patterns even.  Generally, a cross rotation pattern (left front to right rear or right front to left rear) pattern is best, although a lateral rotation (left front to right front or right rear to left rear) is recommended for all wheel drive or four wheel drive vehicles.
  • Proper alignment is key.  Improper alignment can also cause rapid and uneven tire wear which can ruin a tire in a short time.  If you feel  your vehicle pulling in one direction or another, have the alignment checked immediately.
  • Make sure your tire valves have valve caps.
  • Do not overload your vehicle. Check the tire information placard or owner’s manual for the maximum recommended load for the vehicle.  Oftentimes, in SUVs and trucks, the maximum load on the label is less than what the vehicle is physically able to contain.  The maximum load should never be exceeded. And remember, if you are towing a trailer,  some of the weight of the loaded trailer is transferred to the towing vehicle.
  • Slow down if you have to go over a pothole or other object in the road.
  • Do not run over curbs, and try not to strike the curb when parking.
  • Do not overheat your tires.  In the South, tires do not last as long as they do in more temperate climates.  In addition, speeding, overloading, underinflation, and aggressive driving contribute to overheating.  Avoid those actions to prolong your tire life.
  • Replace tires when needed and install tires in matched pairs or complete sets.  Again, no one likes to spend money on tires.  But, if there’s a problem with your tire, it is imperative that you replace the tire and do so in matched sets.  If you are only replacing two tires, make sure to put the newer tires on the BACK of the vehicle, not the front, regardless of what type of vehicle you have.  This is important to maintain maximum traction  to ensure stability.
  • If you are buying tires, find out the age of the tires.  NHTSA requires that tire identification numbers be on every tire manufactured.  The date the tire was produced are the last four digits of the tire identification number with the 2 digits being used to identify the week first and then the two digits to identify the year.  For example, in the tire shown below, the four digits are 5107.  This tire was manufactured during the 51st week of the year 2007.

It is important to know when the tire was manufactured because some places sell used tires that may have dry rotted or have other damage to them that is not evident on the face of the tire.  Tires that were spares in vehicles could be 10-12 years old and still look new. This can cause blow outs and wrecks.

Our firm is currently involved in litigation in which the driver of the vehicle had purchased a used tire from a store in Tuscaloosa.  The tire blew out when she was driving down the interstate and her son was killed in the resulting wreck.  The tire was 12 years old and dry rotted, although it still had rubber nibs on it and appeared to be a new tire.  Our firm has been involved in other litigation against tire retailers who installed new tires on the front of the vehicle instead of the rear.  This resulted in an inability to control the vehicle after a wreck occurred, and our client’s husband was killed as a result.  If you have been involved in an accident related to a tire failure, find a law firm with experience to evaluate your potential case.

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