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Jana Tidwell
Public Relations Manager, PA
O: (302) 299-4426
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AAA Mid-Atlantic: Tired Tires Risking Road Trips

Pennsylvania law allows for tire depth that is half of what AAA recommends on wet roads


PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 7, 2018)Afternoon downpours or otherwise wet weather could spell disaster for drivers with worn tires, even though those tires may meet state regulations. New research from AAA reveals that driving on worn tires at highway speeds in wet conditions can increase average stopping distances by almost 90 feet, or 43 percent more compared to new tires.


The ‘worn’ tire testing involved a tread of 4/32 of an inch in depth, but Pennsylvania and most state laws allow for tire depth that is half that (2/32), if the states have any requirements at all.


“The tread depth of a tire literally determines how the ‘rubber meets the road’ and, therefore, how much control drivers will - or won’t - have in wet weather,” says Rick Santiago, District Director of AAA Car Care Centers for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The less tread, the less control. The less control, the greater the risk.”


In Pennsylvania

More than 23,000 crashes and 173 fatalities occurred in Pennsylvania on wet road conditions last year, according to PennDOT. In 2017, tire/wheel and brake-related failures contributed to the majority of vehicle defect-related crashes. In crashes where a vehicle defect was the primary cause of the crash, tire/wheel-related defects accounted for 37.7 percent.


AAA’s research showed that, if tested side-by-side at 60 mph, vehicles with worn tires would still be traveling at 40 mph when the vehicle with new tires had come to a complete stop. While AAA’s research found that tire performance does vary by brand, price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. In fact, worn tire performance deteriorated significantly for all tires tested, including those at a higher price point. AAA advises shoppers to research options carefully before selecting a replacement tire for their vehicle, and never choose one based on price alone.


“In addition to minimizing the risk of injury, AAA research indicates that money spent on new tires may save motorists a lot of money in the body shop,” Santiago says.


AAA Research

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA conducted testing to understand performance differences at highway speeds between new all-season tires and those worn to a tread depth of 4/32” on wet pavement.

AAA research found that on wet pavement:

Compared to new tires, tires worn to a tread depth of just 4/32” exhibit:


  • An average increased stopping distance of 87 feet for a passenger car and 86 feet for a light truck.

  • A 33 percent reduction in handling ability, for a passenger car and 28 percent for the light truck on average.


    Unfortunately, current industry guidelines and state laws and regulations frequently recommend that drivers wait until tread depth reaches 2/32” to replace tires. Not only does this recommendation jeopardize a driver’s safety, it minimizes manufacturer warranty costs and is often paired with environmental concerns.


    Tire Trouble at Inspection in the Delaware Valley

    By prioritizing safety, AAA maintains that tires should be replaced once the tread depth reaches 4/32”, when stopping distances have already begun to deteriorate significantly. AAA’s comprehensive evaluation of tire tread laws and regulations across U.S. states found a state requirements range from inadequate to non-existent.



    Vehicle will be rejected if: A tire has two adjacent treads with less than 2/32-inch tread remaining at any point – less than 4/32-inch tread on the front tires of the vehicles having a gross weight in excess of 10,000 pounds.


    New Jersey

    The tread depth on each tire shall not be less than 2/32 of an inch deep.



    Vehicle will be rejected if tire is worn so that less than 2/32 inch uniform tread remains when measured in any two adjacent grooves at three locations spaced approximately equally around outside of the tire.

    Note: Exception – 4/32 inch on front tires only for vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVW.


    Testing Your Tire Tread

    AAA recommends a simple tire test to determine whether a vehicle needs new tires. Insert a quarter into the tread, leading with George Washington’s head. At least some of Washington’s head should be hidden in the tread or, AAA says, it is time for new tires. (See photo)



When You Need New Tires

While AAA does not endorse a particular brand of tire, it does offer suggestions for drivers who are shopping around for new tires:

  • When shopping for new tires, it is important to remember that the price alone is not a good indicator of better performance. Drivers must take into consideration several factors such as cost, performance ratings and most importantly, when to replace worn tires.

  • Drivers should research prospective tire models through consumer reviews as well as understanding tire ratings. It is also advisable to speak with a trusted mechanic.

  • Consumers should understand the ratings that are available on the sidewall of the tire, and ensure that they are installing a tire similar to the specifications of the original equipment tire. The automakers spend a lot of time designing the vehicle performance around that tire. 

AAA Wet Weather Driving Tips

In wet conditions, tires can completely lose contact with the road and skid, also known as hydroplaning. The depth of a tire’s tread plays a significant role: the lower the tread depth, the more likely a car will hydroplane.

AAA recommends the following precautions for drivers navigating rain soaked roads:

  • Avoid the use of cruise control in order to respond quickly if the car loses traction with the road.

  • Reduce speed and avoid hard braking and making sharp turns.

  • Increase following distance to allow for ample space if a sudden stop occurs.

  • If the vehicle begins to hydroplane, gently ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction the vehicle should go until traction is regained. Do not brake forcefully as this can cause the vehicle to skid.

The full report, fact sheet and other information regarding this study can be found on the AAA NewsRoom.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at    


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Mailing Address:
7777 Brewster Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19159

AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit

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