Tire safety knowledge among U.S. motorists has improved since last year-but only slightly.
This was the conclusion of a survey taken by the Rubber Manufacturers Association to begin its National Tire Safety Week, April 27-May 3, an initiative of its ``Be Tire Smart-Play Your PART'' tire safety consumer education program.
While three-fourths of U.S. motorists wash their cars at least once a month, only one in seven checks his/her cars' tire inflation pressures with the same frequency, the RMA said in announcing the survey results at the beginning of National Tire Safety Week.
The 14-percent rate of drivers who check their tire pressures properly-driving less than a mile to the nearest air hose, and inflating tires to the vehicle manufacturers' recommended pressure, not the pressure listed on the sidewall-is 3 percentage points more than the RMA survey showed last year.
Overall tire maintenance knowledge increased during 2002, according to the survey. Motorists were 5 percent more likely to check their tire pressures every month; 7 percent more likely to align their wheels every six months; 9 percent more likely to rotate their tires every 8,000 miles; and 7 percent more likely to check their tread depths periodically.
Nevertheless, the 2003 survey also showed that nearly seven out of 10 drivers didn't know how to tell if their tires were bald; 71 percent never checked the pressure in their spare tires; and 45 percent had the erroneous idea that it's better for tires to be slightly underinflated when setting out on a trip with a fully loaded vehicle.
In its effort to bring tire safety to the forefront of consumers' minds, the RMA is partnering with a large group of tire retailers across the U.S. to disseminate tire safety information.
These retailers include Big 10 Tire Stores Inc., Big O Tires Inc., Discount Tire Co., Firestone Tire & Auto Centers, Goodyear Auto Centers, Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., Merchant's Inc., National Tire & Battery, Peerless Tyres, Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack, Sears Automotive Centers, Sullivan Tire Co. Inc., Somerset Tire Service Inc., Tire Kingdom Inc., Towne Fair Tires and hundreds of other independent dealers, according to the RMA.
All of these companies are distributing the association's tire care and maintenance brochure-more than 2 million a year all told, from more than 4,000 retail stores. In addition, some of these stores host events to educate motorists about tire care.
Also, the RMA is distributing its tire safety materials to every member of the U.S. Congress, and 11 state highway safety agencies-in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin-will offer RMA materials to motorists. Also, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft will issue a tire safety proclamation during National Tire Safety Week, and California Assemblyman Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) has introduced a resolution to declare the week of April 28 ``California Tire Safety Week.''
The RMA will kick off the week with a tire safety event at the Sears Auto Center at Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Va. The association will then sponsor events April 30 at a Big O store in Denver and May 1 at a Goodyear Auto Service center in Sacramento.