U.S. motorists are woefully uninformed or misinformed regarding proper tire care, a situation the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) are hoping to counteract with an annual ``National Tire Check Day.''
Held as part of the AAA's annual ``National Car Care Month''-traditionally held in October-the Oct. 20 event was designed to highlight the necessity of proper tire care, especially in the upcoming winter months.
``No one plans to get a flat tire,'' said John Nielsen, director of the AAA Approved Auto Repair Program. ``They could be prevented if we take five minutes a month to check our pressures and treads.''
In connection with National Tire Check Day, the RMA released the results of a new consumer survey showing that:
* Only 15 percent of drivers knew to check their tire pressures at least once a month, and then only when the tires are cold;
* 20 percent knew that when you buy two new tires to replace two bald tires, the new tires should go on the rear axle;
* 34 percent knew how to check their tires' tread depth;
* 36 percent knew that the vehicle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure can be found in the owner's manual and on a placard inside the vehicle; and
* 45 percent knew the inflation pressure molded into the tire sidewall is not the recommended pressure.
Dan Zielinski, the RMA's vice president of communications, noted that tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) soon will be required on every new consumer vehicle in the U.S.
``Tire pressure monitoring systems can help you monitor tire pressures on the road, but it is not a replacement for proper tire care,'' Mr. Zielinski said. ``If the warning light comes on, it's well past the time to put air in that tire.''
The tire check event was held at the drivers' training facility for the Fairfax County Police Dept. in Chantilly. At the facility's test track, driving instructors demonstrated the dangers of driving on wet surfaces with bald tires.
Besides presenting information on proper tire care, the AAA demonstrated the items motorists should carry with them while driving in winter. These include jumper cables, flares, blankets, de-icer, windshield wiper fluid, a flashlight, a first-aid kit and a small snow shovel.
In developing the idea for National Tire Check Day, the AAA cited the RMA survey data and said an increasing percentage of the emergency calls it has answered the past five years have been tire-related.
It also noted National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data that show as many as 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries occur every year in accidents influenced by tire pressure-related circumstances.
``The evidence is clear,'' AAA's Mr. Nielsen said. ``Despite the risk posed by poorly maintained tires, too many motorists are neglecting tire care.
``Taking five minutes each month to check and adjust tire pressure can enhance safety, improve fuel economy and help tires last longer.''