Car accidents are not caused solely by reckless or negligent drivers. Equipment that is designed and relied upon for the safe operation of the vehicle can cause or multiply the harm of these accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board estimated that tire failures cause over 500 deaths in the United States each year.
The NTSB issued a special report in October finding that the current registration and recall of tires in this country is defective. It also reported that the tire and automobile industries provide insufficient guidance on the risks of tire aging. The NTSB conducted this investigation after it completed its probes into four tire-related car accidents that occurred in Florida, Louisiana, Arizona and California that caused 12 fatalities and 42 injuries.
NTSB investigators found that a recall of 3.2 million tires from 2003 to 2013 was only 44 percent complete. The rate also included tires that are no longer in service. In a typical tire recall, for example, only about 20 percent of the affected tires were returned to the manufacturer. However, approximately 78 percent of vehicles recalled for other defects were eventually serviced.
Most consumers purchase tires at independent dealers and distributorships. However, unlike dealers and distributors controlled by tire manufacturers, these sellers do not have to register new tires purchased by consumers. In fact, the Rubber Manufacturers Association estimated that independent dealers register only about 10 percent of purchases. Lack of registration has been a cause of tire recall ineffectiveness.
NTSB investigators also determined that drivers did not understand the importance of being aware of the age of tires, even if the tread is not worn. Further, few drivers aware of the factors that can accelerate aging and weaken tires, such as climate, road conditions, a driver's habits, the number of miles driven and direct sunlight exposure.
The NTSB made nine recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for improving registration and recall procedures. It also emphasized that consumers need to engage in regular maintenance of their tires.
Source: National Transportation Safety Board, "NTSB passenger tire safety report cites deficiencies in registration and real system: Highlights tire aging and maintenance," Accessed Nov. 20, 2015