Image courtesy TireWise

Image courtesy TireWise

Because only 19% of Americans keep their tires properly inflated or do regular tire maintenance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its “TireWise” campaign, as Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx writes on the DOT blog Fast Lane. Foxx writes that tire failures contribute to about 11,000 road accidents and 200 traffic deaths annually.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx (center) with Counselor to President Obama John Podesta and racecar driver Ryan Blaney, at the White House on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx (center) with Counselor to the President John Podesta (left) and race car driver Ryan Blaney, at the White House on December 9.

NHTSA launched its “Drive for Safety” campaign Monday, along with campaign partner NASCAR, Foxx writes. To announce the campaign, NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney appeared at the White House along with his #222 Team Penske Ford Mustang and the #18 Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing, Foxx writes.

Foxx goes on to say:

When fans tune into races this upcoming season, they’ll hear from a Pace Car driver named John, who will talk about these issues and drive viewers to our website, your one-stop resource for tire safety information. At, you’ll find tips and resources to help you buy the right tires and maintain them for optimal safety; the site can even help you keep track of tire recalls.

Properly maintained tires do more than enhance driving safety, Foxx notes; they save you money by increasing fuel efficiency, which helps the environment as well as your finances:

In fact, if 10 million drivers kept their tires properly inflated, they could save nearly $500 million dollars and 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

Foxx adds that if only 10% of vehicle owners bought tires that are 10% more efficient than what they have now, there would be an additional annual savings of 690,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution and $200 million.

TireWise is a resource to help make you and your family safe, whether you plan to buy new tires or want to extend the life of your current ones, writes’s TireWise section. There are five tire-maintenance tips that TireWise urges you to follow:

1. Check the pressure of all your tires (including your spare) at least once a month, when the tires are “cold,” meaning the car has not been driven for at least three hours. You can find your tires’ proper inflation pressure on the Tire and Loading Information label on the driver’s-side door edge or in your owner’s manual. Keep a tire-pressure gauge in your car. This is important because your tires can lose pressure if you drive over a pothole or bump into a curb while parking. (An automatic tire inflator might be even better, and this blog wrote about one yesterday in our holiday gift guide.) Although newer cars warn you when your tires are significantly overinflated, you still need to check your tires monthly, TireWise writes.

2. Check your tires’ treads once a month, when you check the pressure; tires are not safe once their treads are worn down to 2/32 of an inch. TireWise writes:

Tires have built-in “treadwear indicators,” which are raised sections that run in between the tire’s tread. When the tread is worn down so that it’s level with the tread indicator, it’s time to replace your tires.

You can also check your tread by placing a penny in the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, replace your tires.

3. Have your tires balanced and your wheels aligned by a qualified technician. The balancing will make sure the wheels rotate properly, so the car doesn’t vibrate or shake. And the wheel alignment will keep your car from veering to the right or left when you’re driving on a straight road, and will maximize the life of your tires.

4. Have your tires rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles, or sooner if they show wear. Your owners’ manual will tell you how often they should be rotated and what the best pattern would be. Tire rotation helps to reduce irregular wear, which will help tires last longer and provide fuel efficiency. Note that for some vehicles, tire rotation is not recommended, such as if your front and rear tires are of different sizes.

5. For safety, only buy tires that are the same size as those on the vehicle’s original tires, or another size if your owner’s manual recommends that.

TireWise suggests you register your tires with the tire manufacturer and sign up to receive tire recall alerts from NHTSA. You can also file tire complaints related to safety issues, and check to see if other consumers have filed safety defect complaints or if NHTSA has an ongoing tire investigation. TireWise writes that its SaferCar mobile app will soon have a tire update added to it.

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