WASHINGTON—A highway safety advocacy group has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about discrepancies in tire-related fatality statistics on two parts of its website, and also what the agency will do in light of the revised statistics.
The Safety Institute, an affiliate of Rehoboth, Mass.-based Safety Research & Strategies Inc., wrote NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King Sept. 25, noting that the agency now estimates 733 tire-related highway crash fatalities in 2016.
"While we are not aware of any actual work that NHTSA may have done based on methods that are scientifically defensible…we are aware that NHTSA is now citing on its website two new statistics that are inconsistent with previous estimates the agency made in 2014," wrote Sean Kane, president and founder of The Safety Institute and SRS.
The figure of 733 fatalities in 2016 compares with an estimate of 386 tire-related deaths in 2014 on NHTSA's TireWise website, Kane said. The new figure also does not represent a 50 percent reduction in tire-related fatalities from 1995-2006 levels, as NHTSA claims in TireWise, he said.
"Now that NHTSA is using an apparently defensible method to count tire-related crash fatalities, it would be appropriate for the agency to revise its TireWise safety information to reflect the correct information," Kane wrote.
"Most importantly, NHTSA must review past rulemaking decisions for tire safety that were based on data and methods that are known to be unsuited to a statistical study of this topic," he wrote.
In a Sept. 26 blog posting, SRS said the new statistics on the NHTSA website are much more in line than before with a study presented before the National Transportation Safety Board in December 2014 by Randy and Alice Whitfield of Quality Control Systems Corp.
That study, commissioned by The Safety Institute, challenged NHTSA's statistical analysis of tire crash data, the blog posting said.
In a telephone interview, Kane said the NTSB asked NHTSA at the time to review its analytical method for tire-related fatalities in light of the Whitfields' report.
"We want to know what they're going to do with this larger pool of tire fatality statistics that should help determine tire safety policy from now on," he said.
NHTSA has not yet answered the Sept. 25 letter, Kane said. "We don't know when they might answer, and we may get no response at all," he said. "We can never tell with NHTSA."