The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has changed its estimates for tire-related auto accident deaths, now blaming tire failure for the deaths of 719 people in 2015, a 359 percent increase over its annual previous estimates.

Revised Statistics, Goodyear Woes Deflate Trust

Of all of the safety-related features built into your car and truck, your tires are some of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to vehicle upkeep and driver/passenger security. However, your tires have the ability to end a fine-weather highway cruise with a sudden, deadly crash.

Your tires require regular inspection and maintenance to provide consistent, reliable traction, fair fuel efficiency, and long life. But the faith you put into them should be tempered with the knowledge that even newish, top-brand tires can fail unexpectedly, and that failure can cause you to lose control and end up injured in a serious auto accident.

A federal government agency’s revised estimate of tire-related deaths and developing concerns over one Goodyear tire model are enough to make anyone go outside and kick the tires.

Three Times as Many Tire-Related Auto Accident Deaths as Thought

With no announcement, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials revised their statistics for deaths related to tire-related crashes, according to a new report by Eli Wolfe of FairWarning Reports, an online safety industry journal. It turns out that more than three times as many people died in accidents attributable to tire failure than the federal agency previously reported.

For some time, the federal agency that acts as a clearinghouse for traffic safety statistics had said that about 200 people die each year from tire-related crashes on U.S. streets, roads, and highways. Last year, though, NHTSA changed its reporting methods and more than tripled its estimate, reporting that 719 died in tire-related crashes in 2015.

It’s not a big number considering that in Colorado alone, 648 people died from all traffic crashes in 2017, that 37,461 people across the United States died from traffic accidents in 2016, and around the globe, 1.25 million people die from crashes each year.

Wolfe and FairWarning Reports, though, take issue with the change in tire-related crash data because NHTSA had been using the low estimate to justify its decision not to advocate tougher standards for tire safety. Safety advocates have been pushing the agency to require that expiration dates be stamped on new tires. The rule would let consumers know when to replace their tires and also guard against sound-looking but dangerously old rubber. In 2014, NHTSA said it wouldn’t make an aging rule because recently enacted safety standards had already dropped tire-related crash deaths by 50 percent.

NHTSA updated the statistic in 2017 after safety advocates began questioning its methodology, though the agency has taken no steps to revise tire safety rules since.

Goodyear RV Tire Blamed for at Least 100 Injuries, Deaths

U.S. tire-maker Goodyear is facing federal government- and personal injury attorney-scrutiny due to claims that its G159 tires led to the death or injury of at least 100 people over two decades, according to reports by The Associated Press and the automotive web journals Jalopnik and Tire Business.

About 40,000 of the tires were installed on Class-A motorhomes between 1996 and 2003. In December 2017, NHTSA Inspector General of the Department of Transportation asked Goodyear to provide detailed information about the G159 after a judge ordered the release of sealed personal injury claim case files related to the tires.

The government asked Goodyear to provide information about the claims, its production changes, and the methods it uses to examine its products for defects once personal injury claims have been filed.

Claimants argued that the tires were designed for delivery trucks and not for RVs traveling on the highway. Safety advocates allege that Goodyear kept the problems secret by settling lawsuits and getting the courts to seal the case records. Goodyear said it was cooperating with the government.

The agencies have not issued any findings of the tires’ safety, and the tires have not been recalled.

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