Inadequate Tire Maintenance Contributes to Serious Auto Accidents
Prudent motorists recognize the importance of exercising vigilance while driving, obeying traffic laws, and focusing their attention on potential roadway hazards. The obstacles and risks that can confront drivers include drivers drifting into an adjacent lane, cargo falling into the roadway, disabled vehicles disrupting the flow of traffic, and many other roadway emergencies. While attentive driving can provide a way for motorists to compensate for errors committed by other drivers and unanticipated road hazards, negligent driving can stem from actions before a driver even engages the ignition of a vehicle. This is because the failure of vehicle owners to perform tire maintenance can cause serious collisions and result in liability.
Worn tires with dangerous treads cause a number of serious accidents every year, including crashes that cause fatalities. While some people might discount the likelihood of being involved in a tire-related crash, The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (link downloads the NMVCCS) conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that nearly 1 out of every 10 crashes involve a pre-crash tire problem, which amounts to about 197,421 crashes nationally per year. Half of these "tire-related crashes" involved another motor vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian.
The natural aging process of tires can produce conditions that create various risks. The most common hazard associated with old tires involves worn tread. When the surface of a tire becomes flat because the tread is worn-down, the vehicle's traction is reduced, which impairs the vehicle's ability to safely turn or stop. When these maneuvers must be executed under emergency conditions or the roadway is slippery because of inclement weather, the vehicle may skid or hydroplane, causing the driver to lose control.
The blowout of a tire is a less common but extremely dangerous form of an age-related tire issue. The risk of a blowout is especially dangerous because it can happen anytime the vehicle is in motion, not just when executing a turn or slowing down. Drivers can lose control because of a blowout even when the vehicle is simply traveling down a straightaway. Blowouts pose an additional hazard for other vehicles because debris will be littered across the roadway. This debris can pose a serious obstacle, especially for smaller economy cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Even when tread wear and low tire pressure is not obvious, tires that are old or not properly maintained can still cause dangerous crashes. As a tire ages, the rubber from which it is constructed becomes prone to tread separation or cracking. Motorists need to pay attention to the age of their tires because this type of deterioration might not be readily apparent upon casual inspection.
Aside from age, a number of other factors can contribute to tire issues that might result in an auto accident. Vehicle owners also need to pay attention to weather and climate factors. Hot weather and coastal climates take a greater toll on tires, which causes them to deteriorate more rapidly. Even if the mileage on tires is relatively low, exposure to heat and adverse weather can still cause tires to become degraded.
While a blowout that results from a defect in the tire might give rise to a claim against the tire and/or vehicle manufacturer, the driver can be responsible for a crash when improper tire maintenance contributes to an accident. Drivers have an obligation to replace tires that are overly worn, old, or cracking. Proper replacement and rotation of the tires according to manufacturer guidelines can reduce the risk of a tire-related accident.
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