Car owners should check their tires' inflation pressure at least once a month, after driving only a mile or less, and inflate them according to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure-not the pressure molded onto the sidewall.
Nearly twice as many drivers know that today vs. four years ago, and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) credits its National Tire Safety Week endeavors with the improvement in tire maintenance awareness.
Not that proper tire inflation has exactly become a consumer craze. The most recent RMA nationwide motorist survey shows that still only 19 percent of drivers know proper inflation techniques. That's considerably better than the 11 percent who knew them in 2002, when the first National Tire Safety Week was held.
``We're not shouting from the rooftops over 19 percent, but we're showing steady improvement in consumer awareness,'' an RMA spokesman said April 24, the day the association launched the fifth annual National Tire Safety Week in Sacramento.
April 23-29 were the official dates for the event, which the RMA launched at a Goodyear Auto Service Center in downtown Sacramento. Speaking at the event were officials from the California Highway Patrol, the California Office of Highway Safety and the California branch of the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Jacqueline Glassman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Montill Williams, director of public affairs for the national AAA, appeared in a video press release.
Last year's Tire Safety Week promotion kicked off at Skyline Automotive, an auto repair and tire center in Falls Church, Va. Then-NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge spoke live at the event.
California was chosen as the site for this year's launch, the RMA spokesman said, in part because it hadn't been the launch site since 2003 and partly because California is ``a big state with a lot of drivers.''
``We try not to repeat ourselves too much,'' he added. ``If you do something the same way all the time, it becomes old hat.''
National Tire Safety Week is part of the ``Be Tire Smart-Play Your PART'' tire safety program the RMA launched in the wake of the 6.5 million-tire Firestone tire recall of August 2000. The recall also led to passage of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, whose provisions include stringent new tire testing regulations and a requirement for tire pressure monitoring systems on vehicles.
Despite concerted information efforts by industry and government, the RMA noted, NHTSA statistics show that underinflated tires remain a serious safety problem on U.S. roads. The association quoted NHTSA as saying that one in three U.S. cars has at least one seriously underinflated tire and tires are cited as playing a role in 660 highway deaths and 33,000 injuries annually.
More than 14,000 tire and auto service retailers across the U.S.-compared with about 12,000 last year-are working with the RMA to promote the safety week agenda and the year-round PART program, according to the association. Their activities include distribution of the ``Be Tire Smart-Play Your PART'' pamphlets-``PART'' standing for pressure, alignment, rotation and tread-and providing free tire inflation pressure services.