There were 500 deaths and 19,000 injuries in 2014 from tire-related accidents, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
One of those accidents affected the parents of Frank Morro Jr. His mother, Joan, was killed and his father, Frank Sr., suffered a traumatic brain injury after a tire blowout on their SUV in South Carolina.
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“My father was fractured from head to toe,” Frank Jr. said. “He had multiple brain bleeds, skull fractures and a left, overlying fracture.”
It’s a tragedy that gives pause to people like automobile expert Rob Stringari of the Automobile Association of America.
“Once you have tire tread separation, it’s just a matter of time before that tire will disintegrate and potentially blow out,” Stringari said.
Stringari says he checks his tires every time he fuels his car. He doesn’t think the average driver checks their tires enough, only when they encounter a problem.
A four-digit code informs drivers when their tire was built. “The first two digits are the week of the year it was manufactured,” Stringari said.
But you won’t find an expiration date on any tire.
Dan Zielinski of the Rubber Manufacturers Association says data does not support a tire expiration date.
“Lifespan varies from tire to tire, but the determining factors are how it used, whether or not it is properly maintained and how it’s stored,” Zielinksi said. “Those are the factors that can drive service life.”
Zielinski says a tire’s lifespan can range from six to 10 years but that ultimately, tire longevity comes down to the consumer and maintenance.
That infuriates safety advocates like Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies Inc.
“For the most part, consumers have no idea there are recommendations from tire and vehicle manufacturers,” Kane said.
Kane attended the recent SEMA Convention in Las Vegas.
“Why aren’t we looking at technological solutions,” he said. “If you have a scannable tire, everyone goes to get their car serivced, scannable tires can tell you age recommendations and whether you’re under a recall or not.”
Critics say all this code cracking is confusing. Recently, the NTSB called on the tire industry to create a “best practices list” so making it an easier task for drivers to find out if their tires are potentially flawed.
For now, the future of tire safety spins only in this tire expert’s imagination.
“Some governing body would have to say this is the drop-dead date that tires would have to be replaced, and you’d have to bring your vehicle in for inspection,” says Stringari.
Would that happen?
“Your guess is as good as mine,” he says.
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