|Bald Tires Flat Dangerous, says NHTSA|
Too many American motorists face injury or death by driving around on unsafe, bald tires and the nation's gas stations are not helping the situation, according to the Department of Transportation. [Key Findings and Safety Tips]
In response to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports showing that 9 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are driven with at least one bald tire, and that many gas stations fail to provide air pumps or accurate tire pressure gauges, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta urged motorists to closely monitor their tires.
"It is extremely important to motorists safety that they ensure their tires have ample tread and are properly inflated," Secretary Mineta said. "Motorists who drive on tires that are bald or substantially under-inflated risk injuries or fatalities."
To better protect motorists, the NHTSA is launching a new tire safety campaign called: "Tire Safety: Everything Rides on It." Through ads, brochures and radio ads, the campaign will stress the importance of proper tire inflation and vehicle load limits. Motorists will also be advised to check their tires monthly, as well as prior to a long trip, to be sure they have adequate tread.
The NHTSA study found that 14 percent of gas stations are either not equipped with air pumps or have malfunctioning pumps. Also, less than half of all gas stations that offer air pumps provide tire pressure gauges. NHTSA points out, however that motorists can purchase accurate tire pressure gauges for a nominal price.
In July 2001, NHTSA proposed new federal regulations that would require the installation of tire pressure monitoring and warning systems in new passenger cars and light trucks. Improper inflation is the main cause of premature tread loss and sudden tire failure, according to tire industry experts.
Tire tread provides the gripping action and traction preventing a vehicle from slipping and sliding. In general, tires are not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1/16th of an inch. Tires have built-in treadwear indicators that let a motorist know when they should be replaced. These indicators are raised sections spaced intermittently in the bottom of the tread grooves. When they appear even with the outside of the tread, its time for new tires.
Tread condition can also be checked with a Lincoln penny. Just place the penny upside down within the tread. If you can see the top of Lincolns head, the tire needs to be replaced.
- Nine percent of passenger cars are being driven on at least one bald tire. (For purposes of this survey, a tire was considered bald if it had 1/16th of an inch or less of tread depth.)
- Bald tires are between 1.5 and 1.8 times more likely to be under-inflated than are tires with deeper tread, depending on tire location.
Key findings of the NHTSA study on gas station air pumps:
- Over 90 percent of U.S. gas stations are equipped with air pumps. However, nearly 10 percent of these pumps are out-of-order.
- Fewer than half of the pump-equipped gas stations also provide a tire pressure gauge for customer use.
- Nearly 20 percent of the stations providing customers with tire pressure gauges on their air pumps use gauges that over-report the pressure present in a tire by at least 4 psi (pounds per square inch) or more. (This means that motorists who use such gauges in the belief that they are inflating their tires to the recommended pressure would, in fact, be under-inflating them by 4 psi or more.)
According to NHTSA, 27 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires.
Tire Safety Tips from NHTSA:
A radial tire can lose much of its air pressure and still appear to be fully inflated. Operating a vehicle with substantially under-inflated tires can result in a tire failure, such as instances of tire separation and blowouts, with the potential for a loss of control of the vehicle. Under-inflated tires also shorten tire life and increase fuel consumption.
Tires should be inflated according to the vehicle manufacturers recommendations. These can be found in the owners manual or on a placard, which is often located in the glove compartment or on the drivers doorjamb. Motorists should not rely on visual tire inspections to determine whether a tire is properly inflated but should use a tire pressure gauge to do so.
NHTSAs National Center for Statistics and Analysis conducted the two new studies. Statistics from the studies are contained in research notes on the agencys Website at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/WhatsNew.html (Most documents require free Adobe Acrobat - .pdf file reader.).