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Old Tires And Good Tires

If you are a good driver, you may have little concern about getting into a car accident, or at least about causing one. Even the best drivers, however, can find themselves out of control when they blow a tire. Not all flat tires are created equal. Some flats are a mere annoyance. Rapid deflation of a tire can send a car out of control and lead to deadly consequences. Michelin estimated that tire blowouts cause more than 500 deaths every year. To minimize these accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains tire standards for different types of vehicle. The NHTSA recently decided not to add an additional requirement concerning tire age.

Before tackling the question of tire age, here's a quick review on what to do if you suffer a blowout at high speed:

  • Don't panic
  • Keep your foot on the gas. Do NOT slam on the brakes.
  • Firmly hold the steering wheel straight, provided traffic allows this.
  • Slow down slightly and maneuver gently away from traffic.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what many people do when they hear a sound like an explosion under their car and it starts to veer to the side.

So, why did the NHTSA decline to set a tire age standard? There are several reasons. The NHTSA visited the issue of tire standards in 2000. Since that time, tires have become more reliable and tougher. Tires manufactured under the standards set in 2000 are less likely to break down than before. Crash data does not support the need further enhancement to tire standards. Finally, tire pressure monitoring systems are now mandatory on light vehicle tires, as of 2007, so drivers are more likely to be informed of a degrading tire before it actually gives out.

That evidence does not mean that tire failure accidents are a thing of the past. The owner of a vehicle is still responsible for maintenance, including tire maintenance, to keep the car safe. Driving on old, worn out tires is putting yourself and others at risk of harm. Many tire companies warn consumers that a tire's maximum safe age is 10 years, even if the tire has not been used extensively. Ignoring the manufacturer's recommendation is not a good idea and could be construed as negligence if an accident does occur.

Source: RubberNews.com, "RMA praises NHTSA's decision on tire aging standard" by Miles Moore, 28 July 2014

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