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NHTSA report: Safe tires equal less crashes

Not all vehicles on the highway have tire-pressure monitors, although the warning devices have been required by law on cars made since 2008. The risk of a tire-related car accident is higher for drivers of older-model vehicles and cars that did not voluntarily feature the safety option before the law went into effect.

Tire-pressure monitors remind drivers to maintain pressure, but the devices cannot force motorists to comply. Drivers still control whether they respond to electronic underinflation warnings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a recent study that points to tire problems as a significant contributor to accidents. The report said underinflated tires were responsible for three times as many accidents among crashes that were traced to tire problems between 2005 and 2007.

Five percent of all vehicles that ended up in accidents had tire issues like improper maintenance, unsafely-worn treads or less-than-recommended inflation. Two-thirds of the tire-related accidents involved passenger cars.

The NHTSA found that tire faults were present in more than 11 percent of accidents during bad weather conditions. When weather played no role in an accident, the rate fell to 3.9 percent.

Underinflated and bald tires increase the risks drivers take on the road by decreasing chances that motorists will be able to steer out of an accident. Earlier studies estimated that 28 percent of all vehicles had at least one tire that fell under 25 percent of the manufacturer's recommended pressure.

Tire-pressure monitors are set according to the studies' findings. The device triggers a dashboard signal, if any one tire is inflated below the 25 percent mark for a period of at least 20 minutes. A 2009 NHTSA study found that 57 percent of cars with tire monitors had adequately-inflated tires. Proper tire inflation was present on only 43 percent of vehicles without the devices in place.

Source: The Detroit News, "Low tire pressure causing crashes," David Shepardson, May 12, 2012

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