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ABC airing tire aging story

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(ABC photo) ABC News uses this graphic on its website to promote a story it plans to air Wednesday, May 14 on its Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline programs.

WASHINGTON (May 13, 2014) — ABC News is planning to air a story on tire aging May 14, initially on its “Good Morning America” show, that seems to take the tire industry to task for fighting sales of tires that go beyond a six-year limit.

In promoting the piece — which ABC said also will be aired May 14 on “World News With Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline” — the news organization’s website claims that “American tire companies have helped to defeat proposed laws in eight states that would require inspection of tires for age. Safety advocates say aging increases the risk of dangerous tire failures.”

ABC notes that auto makers Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group L.L.C. “all urge motorists to replace tires that are six years of age or older because of the possibility the rubber in them could degrade and create a dangerous situation in which the tire loses its tread.”

It also quotes Sean Kane, president of Rehoboth, Mass.-based vehicle safety advocacy group Safety Research & Strategies Inc. (SRS), who says that “if we are thinking about a universal practice that inherently keeps you safe, six years is a good place to go.”

ABC points out that the tire industry trade group, which it erroneously calls the "Rubber Manufacturers of America,” says the six-year limit is “an arbitrary date” not supported by facts, and that the group “has hired lobbyists to defeat laws that would require mandatory inspection of tire age.”

“We oppose legislation that have some sort of age limit on tires,” said Dan Zielinski, Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) senior vice president of communications, who was interviewed for the story.

In a most recent case, ABC said, the RMA “spent $36,000 on lobbyists to defeat proposed legislation in the state of Massachusetts that would have included the age of tires on regular vehicle inspections, according to ABC News’ Boston affiliate WCVB, which joined other top ABC News affiliate investigative teams around the country in a national hidden camera investigation into tire safety.”

Mr. Zielinski is quoted as telling ABC, “It’s more important how a tire is used, whether it’s maintained and how it’s stored.”

However, the news organization said “even one tire company, Michelin, cautions that aged tires could be a problem, urging motorists to replace tires over 10 years old.”

Safety experts say a tire can age and degrade under certain conditions, ABC says in its website story, “even if it has not spent any time on the road.” Mr. Kane, of SRS, added that “over time, (tires) become less elastic” and “once it’s put into service it represents a significant hazard.”

The story also advises consumers how to determine the age of a tire, though ABC says it “can be a daunting task. The date of production can be found in a unique code at the end of 11- or 12-digit identification number on the tire’s sidewall.”

Tire age degradation, the ABC story continues, “is part of a first-of-its-kind special investigation launched by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the hundreds of deaths each year from ‘tire-initiated events.’”

It quotes Don Karol, the NTSB investigator leading the agency’s initiative, who says tire aging “does potentially play a role in the degradation of the internal structure of the tire,” and adds: “It’s definitely a significant issue.”

The ABC story also says that NTSB investigators are focusing “on a recent accident in Louisiana in which a 10-year-old tire on a sports utility vehicle lost its tread and the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a bus carrying a high school baseball team.

“Though everyone on the school bus survived, the February crash killed four of five people in the SUV.”

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