WASHINGTON (Nov. 30, 2001)—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching a new informational campaign, “Tire Safety: Everything Rides on It.”
This multimedia program, which will involve radio public service announcements, brochures and print ads, will “stress the importance of proper tire inflation and vehicle load limits,” as well as urging drivers to check their tires monthly and before long trips to make sure they have adequate tread, the agency said in a Nov. 30 press release.
NHTSA decided to initiate the campaign after reviewing the results of two tire safety research papers mandated by the Transportation Recall Efficiency, Accountability and Documentation Act. The papers, which analyzed tread depth and the availability and reliability of gas station air pumps, were part or the Tire Pressure Special Study performed by NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis.
The tread depth study determined that 9 percent of U.S. vehicles have at least one bald tire, baldness being defined by the study as 1/16 inch of tread depth or less. The air pump study found that although 94 percent of all U.S. gas stations have them, 9 percent don't work, 49 percent don't have tire gauges and between 16 and 20 percent have air gauges that over-report actual tire pressures by at least 4 psi. Hand-held gauges are far less likely to over-report, it said.
Forty-three percent of gas stations with air pumps charge for their use, the study added. There are strong regional differences in custom on this issue, with 63 percent of Southern gas stations but only 18 percent of Western stations charging for air pump use.
“It is extremely important to motorists' safety that they ensure their tires have ample tread and are properly inflated,” said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta in the press release.
NHTSA has prepared three tire safety public service announcements to run on 2,000 radio stations across the U.S., the agency said. It will also buy ads in an unstated number of newspapers and magazines and print 500,000 flyers to distribute free to motorists at tire dealerships and other outlets.
Major tire and auto associations—including the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the Tire Association of North America, the International Tire and Rubber Association and Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc.—will help NHTSA disseminate printed materials for the campaign, the agency said.
The RMA, TANA and ITRA congratulated NHTSA on the new program.
“We are pleased to be a partner with NHTSA in this effort,” said RMA President Donald B. Shea in a press release. “The greater number of voices, the greater chance that this important safety message will be heard.”
TANA and ITRA's joint statement, signifying their pending merger, also praised the agency's effort and pledged wholehearted support.
“This is a great example of what a merged organization can do for its members,” said TANA President Steve Disney in the release. “This effort, and the resulting work with NHTSA, will really raise public awareness of proper tire safety and help our industry maintain a positive relationship with the government agency responsible for oversight of the TREAD Act.”
Currently, the tire and auto industries await NHTSA's issuance of tire pressure monitoring device standards under the TREAD Act. Tire and auto makers are divided over the agency's proposal to have monitoring devices warn drivers of underinflation only when tire pressures fall 20 to 25 percent below the manufacturer's recommended cold pressure.
The RMA said the proposal was transparently unsafe, and should be allowed only if the agency creates a minimum load capacity requirement for tires. TANA and ITRA also support the load capacity requirement.