TireWise photo of a problem tireThe National Transportation Safety Board is investigating how it happens that defective, recalled tires end up on the road, as Cindy Galli, Randy Kreider, and Brian Ross reported recently on Good Morning America. NTSB investigators say that only one of out of five recalled tires are returned to the manufacturer, the reporters write in their article appearing on Yahoo News. ABC News, which has done its own investigation, finds that the government recall system is “badly-flawed” and “archaic,” allowing literally millions of potentially dangerous tires to remain in use, for sale in stores, or unaccounted for.

Daryl Killian writes for CBS Atlanta that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that manufacturers stamp onto the sidewall of every tire sold in U.S. retail stores the date it was manufactured. The average consumer is unaware of that stamped date, he adds, noting that tires can expire when they are too old. The ABC/Yahoo News piece quotes Don Karol, the head of the NTSB investigation, as saying there are “at least” 400 to 500 deaths annually from tire-initiated crashes, “including tires that could have been underinflated, punctured or [that] suffered from other pre-existing problems.”

NHTSA writes in a press release that each year in the U.S., there are about 11,000 tire-related car accidents, and almost 200 fatalities because of them. The ABC/Yahoo News article says that this 200-fatalities number is the one that the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) believes is the correct one, and quotes RMA spokesman Dan Zielinski as saying he was unaware of the NTSB investigation until told about it by ABC News. The NHTSA has launched a “TireWise” campaign to give consumers and retailers essential information about how to choose and care for tires.

The TireWise campaign provides the following information:

  • How to choose the right type, size, and rating of tire for your vehicle
  • How to check your tire pressure monthly; proper inflation is critical for safe driving
  • How to check tires for wear and other visual defects monthly; do not exceed treadware limits
  • How to check the age of your tires, when to replace the tires, and how to extend their service life
  • How temperature can affect tires (warmer weather can contribute to aging) and how to check tire pressure and conditions in warm climates
  • How to follow vehicle manufacturers’ recommendations for replacing tires

TireWise will provide a “Life as a Tire” video that retailers can play as customers shop for tires or wait for them to be installed, and will provide a “Congratulations on Your New Tire Purchase” form that gives customers information on how to care for their tires. The form includes a registration so customers can be notified if tires are recalled, the NHTSA press release says.

Later this year, when NHTSA’s SaferCar mobile app for Apple and Android is updated, users will be able to sign up for tire-recall alerts for their tires and also will be able to submit tire complaints from their smartphones. You can get tire-recall information currently by following NHTSA on Twitter and Facebook, and by signing up on the SaferCar.gov site for RSS feed and email alerts.

In another article titled “Dangerous Tires: Cracking the Code That Could Save Your Life,” Galli writes that in an instructional video, safety advocate Sean Kane shows how to find out how old your tires are. Here are the directions she posts based on that video:

1. On the side of your tire, near the inner ring, you should be able to find a string of letters and numbers that begins with DOT.

2. Follow the string to the end until you get to a series of four numbers.

3. Those four numbers represent a “date code” – but it’s not as easy as you think

4. The first two numbers represent the week the tire was made, and the last two indicate the year. So a tire code that says “1303 would mean the tire was made in the thirteenth week, or the beginning of April, of 2003.

Here is a TireWise video about caring for your tires:

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