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Published on April 28, 2003

Doing your part for tire safety?

The Rubber Manufacturers Association's National Tire Safety Week, which runs April 27 through May 3, is a great program aimed at changing how consumers perceive their tires and care for them.

But while the association revs up for the second reincarnation of tire safety week, it's apparent even more industry involvement must take place if a significant shift in consumer behavior regarding tires is to occur.

To truly begin to change attitudes towards tires, it will require all tire retailers-beyond the 4,000 or so outlets the RMA has enlisted this year-to actively take up the cause.

This is an effort tire dealers should embrace and adapt locally simply because it's the right thing to do for the industry, their own businesses as well as for their customers.

What can be more important than making sure that dealers' customers appreciate and take care of the tires sold to them in order to keep their vehicles safe every time they venture out of their driveways?

A recent RMA survey illustrates the need for a continued education effort. The association found only a modest improvement in U.S. motorists' tire safety knowledge had occurred since last year's tire safety week, with only 14 percent of drivers checking their air pressures properly, up 3 percentage points from a year ago.

That means 86 percent of drivers still don't know how to check inflation pressure accurately, which involves inflating tires to the vehicle manufacturers' recommended air pressure. This is the pressure information found on the vehicle's door and in the owner's manual-not the maximum inflation pressure listed on the sidewall, another area of confusion for many drivers.

The survey also showed that nearly 70 percent of drivers don't know how to tell if their tires are bald, and 45 percent erroneously thought it was better for tires to be slightly underinflated when setting out on a trip with a fully loaded vehicle.

These results came despite the RMA's year-long ``Be Tire Smart-Play Your Part'' tire safety consumer education program, of which National Tire Safety Week is a part.

On the plus side, the RMA's survey did find improvement in some areas, with 5 percent of motorists more likely to check their air pressures every month, 7 percent more likely to get their vehicles aligned and 9 percent more likely to rotate their tires regularly. Some drivers apparently are getting the message.

While any improvement in consumer tire knowledge is positive, the survey's results illustrate how big a job the industry faces in changing public views about tires.

That makes it imperative that all independent tire dealers in North America make the concept of tire safety and education a year-long cause.

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