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Study: Nearly Half of Tires Would Fail Proposed U.S. Government Standards

Jun 6, 2002 | AP

Proposed standards for tire safety are "unwarranted and extreme," says a tire industry group that claims nearly half the tires being used today would not pass the government's suggested tests.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association, a group that represents tire makers, did the study that said many of today's tires wouldn't pass the test even though the group claims they're safe.

Congress ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to update tire safety standards in 2000 after the recall of millions of Firestone tires. The current standards were written in 1967, before modern radial tires even existed, and industry and safety advocates agree they are in dire need of an update.

"We've waited a long time for the government to improve this test," said R. David Pittle, senior vice president for technical policy at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. "It appears to us that these tests are reasonable, but they do press the industry to make safer, more durable tires."

NHTSA estimates about 414 deaths and 10,275 injuries a year might be caused by blowouts and other tire failures. The agency says the proposed rules could save 27 lives and prevent 667 injuries a year and cost the tire industry about dlrs 282 million annually.

Tires are tested on a wheel that presses the tread against the outside of a steel cylinder, which represents contact with the ground.

The tests are required by NHTSA, but conducted in-house by manufacturers. Every type of tire must pass to be sold in the United States.

The agency's proposal for a new standard would require manufacturers to run the tires on the test wheel for a longer time and at higher speeds.

The proposal also includes new tests to determine the likelihood of tire failure from striking a road hazard, like a pothole, and from the tire coming off the vehicle wheel during a hard driving maneuver. It adds new tests to ensure a tire won't fail when underinflated and to assess the tire's performance after it ages.

NHTSA estimates about a third of today's tires would not meet the standard. But an analysis by the Rubber Manufacturers Association found that as many as 42 percent of car tires and 54 percent of light truck tires may not meet the standard.

The agency says about 0.5 percent of all crashes are caused by tire problems.

Agency officials say the proposal will change, but they would not comment on what the changes might be.

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