The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) announced last month that it was going to begin a special investigation focused on tire safety. The NTSB claims it was prompted to investigate certain tire safety “issues” after learning of two tire failure-related wrecks in February of this year. One of the wrecks occurred in Centerville, La., when the left rear tire of a SUV failed causing a rollover wreck taking the lives of a mother and her three children. When the tire failed in that case, it was 10 years old.
One of the areas the NTSB is going to investigate deals with the effect of aging on tire durability and failure. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 400 people are killed every year due to tire failures. Safety Research & Strategies, a well-respected consumer safety group, has determined that more than half of these fatalities result from age-related failures.
The dangers associated with aged tires have been recognized within the tire industry for almost 40 years. In fact, the tire industry has known of the dangers posed by aged tires since the 1980s, when research groups from Europe documented an increase of tire failures after time. In this country, automobile and tire makers began warning of the dangers of aged tires in 2005 and distributed service bulletins to their dealer and tire service center networks recommending inspection and replacement at six and 10 years.
Nevertheless, in the last four to five years, tire companies have lobbied to defeat proposed legislation in eight states that would require inspection of tires at six years for “aging.” The primary driving force behind efforts to defeat aging legislation is the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). The Association’s position is that a six-year limit for inspection is “an arbitrary date” not supported by any evidence. That is absolutely amazing when you consider that most of the tire makers making up the RMA, such as Bridgestone, Michelin and others, caution their own dealers to inspect tires after six years for safety, including signs of age.
Hopefully, the NTSB investigation will help unite the tire manufacturers and lead to an industry-supported tire service life. Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, lawyers in our firm continue to see cases involving deaths and serious injuries caused by “aged tires” causing rollover crashes. If you need more information on this subject, contact Rick Morrison, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com. Rick has successfully handled a number of cases involving aged tires.
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