Our firm has handled numerous cases where individuals have been seriously injured or killed because an aged or recalled tire on their vehicle failed. The dangers of recalled tires are obvious. However, currently there is no adequate warning system in place. Tire aging is perhaps the most dangerous tire defect because it cannot be seen and most people are not aware of the dangers of aged tires. A tire might look brand new and might not have ever been used, but research and testing shows that when tires reach a certain age, those tires can break down from the inside, de-treading upon use and causing fatal accidents. Since 2005, car makers have warned that a tire should be replaced and not used after six years regardless of use or appearance. Tire makers warn that tires should be replaced after 10 years.
Deaths and injuries in crashes caused by aged and recalled tires are entirely preventable, but neither the tire industry nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been inclined to do anything to prevent them. This month, the public might finally see some leadership on this issue from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The board is meeting to discuss its new report on tire-related passenger vehicle crashes and the safety issues uncovered during these investigations at the December 2014 NTSB tire symposium.
In February 2014, two tragic, fatal, and high-profile tire crashes on U.S. highways may change tire safety. One crash involved an 11-year-old Michelin Cross Terrain tread separation on a 2004 Kia Sorrento that led to a crash into a school bus carrying 34 members of a Louisiana high school baseball team in Centerville, La. Four of the Kia occupants died, and the fifth was severely injured. The other involved the failure of a recalled BF Goodrich tire that was on the left rear tire on a 2002 Ford 350 XLT 15-passenger on an interstate in Lake City, Fla. The driver lost control, and the van swerved onto an embankment and rolled over. Two adults died, and all of the other occupants, including several children, suffered injuries.
Within 10 months of these horrific crashes, the NTSB resolved to take up the issue of tire safety and convened, in lieu of formal hearings, a two-day tire symposium in which interested parties presented information on tire age, the recall system, tire construction, technology and tire-related crash data. The NTSB should be commended for taking some initiative on this important safety issue. Hopefully, its recommendations will be in a positive direction and help with an important tire safety issue.
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