2 comments to “Federal Regulators Deflated the Numbers on Tire-Related Crash Deaths, Then Took Victory Lap”

  1. Matthew Mabey

    First, this article appears to be beating-up NHTSA for heeding constructive criticism and switching to a superior data set. Shouldn’t the article instead be congratulating NHTSA for being responsive to criticism?
    Second, it is important to note that tires do have “date manufactured” codes molded into the sidewall markings. I do understand that what has been proposed is an expiration date. For something that has as big an environmental footprint as an automobile tire, is that wise? I don’t think that a ham-handed expiration date sounds like a good solution. If my bag of lettuce goes bad before the best-by date, I can see to pretty well make that judgement call for myself. If the bag of lettuce is a couple of days past the best-by date, I can likewise decide whether I want to give it a go or not. With a tire, I don’t think the average car owner has the knowledge or experience to make similar judgments. The result will be slavish adherence to the dates (or completely ignoring them). Errors in both directions have major consequences. A tire that has aged faster than expected (or has been damaged) might be trusted despite of signs to the contrary. Conversely, perfectly fine tires that just happen to have reached a “zero risk” influenced expiration date may be discarded and wasted.
    Redoing the assessment with the “better” fatality values would certainly seem to be in order.
    Aged tires probably only make up a fraction of the total “tire related” fatal crashes. Of those, only a fraction would be addressed by any reasonable, proposed expiration-date scheme. What those fractions are was likely estimated in the 2014 report, even if their total fatalities number was not from the best possible data set. My bet would be that most tire related crashes are due to worn-out tires (i.e. tires that should have been replaced in response to obvious signs of wear). I would further bet that second place goes to tires that had somehow been damaged in use (e.g. pothole or curb strikes). Third place likely goes to tire inflation, but it might instead be second place (I’m guessing third because of the growing number of cars with inflation monitoring systems). I suspect that manufacturing defects and age are fighting it out down at the bottom. To throw out a guess, 4% defect and 4% age only. 4% of 738 would be ~30 deaths. Of those, likely less than half would be prevented by an expiration-date scheme. Likely only 1/4. So, I hypothesize that we are talking about a tire expiration date program that, at best, might save 7 lives each year. But there might also be 2 to 10 extra deaths due to people trusting tires, that would not have otherwise been trusted, because they hadn’t yet “expired.” The additional costs would likely be many, many wasted tires and the associated monetary and environmental costs.
    By all means, this should be looked at with the best possible data. That said, I suspect that the reasonable answer will be the same: a tire expiration date scheme doesn’t make sense.
    Finally, I will add something that the article doesn’t mention. NHTSA makes the case that auto and tire manufacturers and retailers are already recommending that tires over ~6 years old be treated as “too old.” This being the case, my bet is that the numbers of lives to be saved by a regulatory tire expiration scheme is even lower than the above guesstimates.

  2. Louis V. Lombardo

    Bravo! Thanks to:

    * Fair Warning.

    * Randy Whitfield.

    * Sean Kane.

    NHTSA under both Democrats and Republicans has become a captive agency.
    See https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/opinion/weak-oversight-deadly-cars.html

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