Tire Safety Checks Urged as Summer Travel Season Heats Up

As part of a national tire safety month, federal highway safety officials are urging consumers to check tire pressure and treads before the summer travel season begins, highlighting the risks associated with tire problems that often go undetected. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that June is National Tire Safety month, which is designed to raise awareness about the importance of proper tire maintenance, which not only makes roadways safer, but also cuts down on fuel costs.

As schools let out nationwide, an increasing number of families will begin hitting roadways for summer vacation destinations and the July 4, holiday. Officials are reminding drivers to always check your vehicle’s tires before traveling, especially long distances, to prevent underinflated or over worn tires from blowing out.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has found that on average, only 19 percent of consumers properly check and inflate their tires, and that one in four cars have at least one tire that is significantly underinflated. Vehicle tires lose approximately one PSI of pressure each month and, if not properly maintained, could pose crash risks to drivers, occupants and others on roadways.

The NHTSA recommends that consumer visit the agency’s tire safety webpage, which covers buying tires, maintaining them, how tires age over time, and important label and inflation information.

Drivers are encouraged to educate themselves on which tires are appropriate for their vehicle for each season of travel, and to always register tires online or by mail to receive relevant recall information.

The NHTSA stresses that maintaining tires should be part of a consumer’s normal routine for their vehicle, making sure the tires are properly inflated and rotated regularly to avoid flats, blowouts or treads coming off the tire. Consumers are advised they should stop using worn or aged tires and to follow the “penny test” to gauge proper tread.

The penny test involves taking a penny and placing it headfirst between a tire’s treads. If part of President Abraham Lincoln’s head is covered, there is enough tread, if none of the head is covered, then the treads are likely worn too far down and the tire should be replaced.

Before traveling, driver are also advised to always check for signs of physical damage such as cuts, cracks, bulges, or irregular wear or damage due to under inflation or overloading. According to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) 2015 survey, 35 percent of American drivers cannot tell if a tire is bald, and only 17 percent know how to check their tire pressure.

In a 2015 report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 3.2 million tires were recalled in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013 and only 44% were recovered. The agency’s research indicates that only about 20% of recalled tires are returned to manufacturers, leaving the potential for them to be sold and used on U.S. roadways. Consequently, many vehicles with dangerous and defective tires remain on U.S. roadways, increasing the risk of serious injury in an auto accident, because owners discarded the notice or never received notification that there is a problem with their tires.

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