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The Role Tire Age Plays in Car Accidents

After the car crash that killed movie star Paul Walker along with his friend and veteran racecar driver Roger Rodas earlier this year, most of the discussion of the accident focused on the vehicle’s speed. But there was another major factor that contributed to the collision, according to investigators. The tires on Roger Rodas’ car were over 9 years old.

Research by the Society of Automotive Engineers estimates that 90 fatalities and over 3,200 injuries every year can be attributed to old tires. Tire aging, particularly in high heat states, presents a danger to drivers regardless of the amount of wear, according to Safety Research & Strategies Inc. Even tire manufacturers such as Bridgestone Americas, Group Michelin, and Yokohama Tire Corp. among others have issued warnings to consumers recommending annual tire checks after 5 years and discontinuation of use after 10.

This is what makes it confusing that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has persistently rejected petitions by Safety Research & Strategies Inc. to require tire makers to print the date of manufacture on the sidewalls of new tires.

The NHTSA released a report earlier this year calling a tire-aging test an unnecessary addition to the current standard for tire safety. However, according the SRS, this statement misses the point entirely. The SRS’s concern is not tied to tire testing but rather to “tire labeling and manufacturers’ unwillingness to adequately educate dealers and motorists about when tires should be removed from service,” said SRS President Sean Kane in a blog post.

Currently tire manufacture dates are embedded within obscure tire identification numbers, leaving consumers clueless as to whether the tires they’re purchasing were made last month or have been sitting in storage for the past decade.The SRS has been petitioning to make tire age accessible to consumers since 2004. A large-scale change like what they’re proposing might be a hassle to tire manufacturers, but if it puts even a dent in the thousands of auto fatalities we experience each year, it would be worth it.

Sources: “NHTSA to Initiate Consumer Awareness Campaign on Tire Age – No Standard Needed,” Safety Research & Strategies Inc., July 13 2014.”SRS protests NHTSA tire age decision,”, July 14 2014.

“Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA’s Work,” SAE International.Winton, Richard, “Paul Walker death: New report blames 93-mph speed in fiery crash,” Los Angeles Times, March 25 2014.

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