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WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, July 3, 2018) –– Summertime, when the Sun’s ecliptic, or path, across the sky is the longest, as are summer days and sunshine hours, is “Tire Blowout Season.” You can tell by all the tire fragments, large and small, strewn about the road. Blown tire fragments flying off tractor-trailer rigs pose serious highway hazards for everyone in the debris path. A bursting tire, and the resulting rapid loss of air pressure, at highway speeds on passenger vehicles makes it difficult for drivers to safely maintain control. This is an important object lesson for the 40 million Americans hitting the road for trips of 50 miles or more from home this Fourth of July holiday period. Many Americans will make the trek under the “Heat Dome.” Compounding matters, just over a third of new model cars on the road today rolled off the assembly line without a spare tire. It just might catch many holiday travelers by surprise and put them in harm’s way.
A blowout or a flat tire could ruin or delay your Fourth of July road trip. Even worse, it could cause a roll-over crash, especially at high speeds, or lead to serious injury or death. Plus, don’t assume you have a spare in the trunk before hitting the road for the Fourth. AAA urges motorists to inspect their vehicles and check the condition of their tires before heading out. AAA will rescue 362,000 motorists at the roadside, including 33,000 across the region, during the holiday. Flat tires will be one of the foremost reasons AAA members will experience car trouble and roadside emergencies. “Poorly inflated tires can cause excess heat build-up that can damage tires and lead to failure,” cautions the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).
It is a matter of physics. Last July was one of the warmest Julys on record, statistically tied for that dubious distinction with July 2016. It makes July a time of the year when highway surface temperatures can top 150 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the country. It is bad news for bald tires. When it is the sunniest and warmest outside, all that kinetic friction between rolling automobile tires and super-heated roads can cause the build-up of frenzied amounts of heat in tires, especially tires that are under-inflated, worn, torn, old, or damaged. These are the makings of the perfect conditions that promote internal structural damage to tires, and in turn, trigger tire blow-outs and tire failures. Attentiveness to this is the order of the day, warns AAA.
“Before embarking on their long-distance trips for the holiday getaway, travelers should make sure they have their tires checked, or purchase new ones, to ensure their safety and the safety of their family members and to avoid being involved in tire-related crashes, which can turn fatal,” advises James Moore, Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Car Care Center. “Driving on tires with improper inflation pressure is dangerous. Tires are more prone to fail or to blow out when temperatures outside are hottest or if you are driving a heavily loaded vehicle at high-speed conditions. A blowout can result in a catastrophic vehicular rollover crash.”
“Tire Blowout Season” runs ineluctably from the middle of May through October, when motorists and families travel greater distances in their vehicles on summer vacation road trips and on hot road surfaces, which puts undue stress on tires that are not properly maintained. It is axiomatic, tires are the only part of the vehicle in constant contact with the road. About nine percent of motor vehicle crashes in the United States are “tire-related.” During 2016, the United States witnessed 733 motor vehicle fatalities in which a tire malfunction was a contributing factor, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A year earlier, 19,000 persons were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving tire malfunctions.
“The most common causes of tire failure in a road trip are bald tires, tread separation, and under-inflated tires,” said Bruce Jenkins, Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Roadside Assistance. “Always inspect your tires before a long trip. The more often these inspections are performed, the easier it will be to find a small problem, such as a nail in your tire, and fix it before it becomes a more expensive and time-consuming issue.”
Mark well, 28 percent of 2017 model year vehicles are missing a spare tire. Here is the calculus: In 2016 alone, AAA came to the rescue to more than 450,000 members faced with a flat tire whose cars did not have a spare tire. “Not having a spare can turn the relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside into an inconvenient and costly situation that requires a tow to a repair facility,” said Jenkins.
As vehicle tires age, they are more prone to failure, especially when roadways are “hotter than Satan’s house-cat.” Yet where the rubber meets the road, the threat of a blowout or tread separation increases substantially for motorists driving vehicles overloaded with passengers and cargo, or vehicles with excessively worn tires, improperly maintained tires, and under-inflated tires. Also problematic: uneven wear patterns on tire treads, slashes or cuts on tires, tires with slow leaks. Tires with thin thread or tires in very worn condition are often called “May-Pops,” as in they could pop in any minute due to foreign objects such as nails, or because of a sudden thudding impact with potholes, curbs, road hazards, or any other obstacle or obstruction.
Cars with tires with tread depth at two thirty-seconds of an inch (2/32 inch) or less experienced “tire problems before the crash three times more often than vehicles with tread depth between 3 to 4/32”, according to research by NHTSA. In a recent warning, AAA maintains that tires should be replaced once the tread depth reaches 4/32”, when stopping distances have already begun to deteriorate significantly.
On top of that, 12 percent of all passenger cars in the United States have at least one tire under-inflated by at least 25 percent, according to previous studies of tire inflation pressure and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) by NHTSA. “Under-inflated tires and overloaded vehicles are a major cause of tire failure.” AAA urges drivers to inspect tires, check the tire pressure monthly, check tread depth, and proactively replace old, aging or worn tires. Some tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are 6 to 10 years old, regardless of tread wear. Aging tires contribute to crashes causing 90 deaths and 3,200 injuries annually.
“But that lucky old sun got nothing to do, but roll around heaven all day.” However, if a sudden tire failure or blowout occurs at highway speeds on a sunny day, or any other day of the year, for that matter, the consequences can prove lethal or injurious, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. Flat tires and blowouts are estimated to cause more than 400 deaths annually and greater than 78,300 crashes annually, often resulting in unutterable pain and suffering. The average driver will experience up to five flat tires in a lifetime. On average, seven tire punctures occur every second in the United States, accounting for 220 million flat tires annually.
Yet nearly 20 million drivers in the United States haven’t the foggiest notion how to change a flat tire, according to a previous survey by AAA. That is two out of every ten drivers or 39 million Americans. What is more, only one in seven drivers properly checks the tire pressure once a month; 71 percent of drivers do not check the tire pressure in their spare tires; and two out of three drivers don’t know how to tell if their tires are bald, according to consumer surveys conducted by the RMA. Here is the upshot. Tire maintenance is a matter of life and death which is why AAA urges motorists to check tire pressures monthly and have all tires inspected as part of routine maintenance. If your vehicle has a spare tire, be sure that it’s properly inflated.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and nearly 78,000 members in the District of Columbia. 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 https://aaa.com