FALLS CHURCH, Va.—"Your brakes are only as good as your tires," Jeffrey W. Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at the official launch of National Tire Safety Week.
Runge was one of several speakers at the April 25 event sponsored by the Rubber Manufacturers Association as part of its ongoing "Be Tire Smart—Play Your PART" program. Runge and RMA President Donald B. Shea stressed the amicable relations between NHTSA and the association and their solid agreement on proper tire maintenance, despite their disagreements over the final rule on tire pressure monitoring systems issued April 7.
Each year some 660 highway deaths and 33,000 injuries are caused by tire-related accidents including loss of control, skidding, flat tires and blowouts, Runge claimed. Also, untold numbers of tires and barrels of petroleum are wasted because of underinflated tires.
"One out of four vehicles on the road has at least one significantly underinflated tire," he said. "This can be prevented if you know the answer to one question: ´What´s my PSI?´
"Filling your tires with air is as basic and necessary as filling your tank with gas," Runge said.
Shea quoted the discouraging results of the latest RMA tire safety survey, which showed that 85 percent of motorists don´t know the proper steps in checking a tire´s inflation pressure. Those include checking the pressure at least once a month; using the pressure recommended on the vehicle´s tire information label, not the pressure molded on the sidewall; and checking tires only when they are cold and haven´t been driven for at least three hours.
"By contrast, three-fourths of all motorists wash their cars regularly," Shea said. "We think properly inflated tires are a lot more important than a clean car."
Runge and Shea spoke at Skyline Automotive, an auto repair facility and American Car Care Centers member in Falls Church. As at other tire dealerships participating in National Tire Safety Week, Skyline Automotive offered free tire pressure gauges, tire inspections and RMA tire safety brochures to customers.
During the question-and-answer period, Runge said NHTSA would decide soon on the RMA´s petition for a minimum reserve load requirement for tires, but declined further comment. Shea added, "We might not have the same views of the TPMS rule, but we agree absolutely on the importance of proper tire care."
The RMA petitioned the agency for the minimum reserve load requirement in response to the TPMS rule´s provision that the underinflation warning light will illuminate only when one or more tires fall 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer´s recommended pressure. Runge said the 25-percent differential is to protect the public from false alarms. The tire industry, however, insists that a trigger level that low will give motorists a false sense of security while causing severe damage to their tires.
Besides American Car Care Centers, the RMA´s partners in National Tire Safety Week include AAA, the Tire Industry Association, the National Automobile Dealers Association, the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, 20 major tire retailers and dealership chains, and all seven of the RMA´s tire manufacturer members.
About 12,000 tire dealerships across the U.S. participated in National Tire Safety Week.
In Arizona, the RMA joined in a special "Be Tire Smart" program with the Arizona Governor´s Office of Highway Safety, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, AAA Arizona and Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Discount Tire Co. That program included distribution of RMA tire safety brochures to every Discount Tire outlet and AAA Approved Auto Repair facility in the state.