Tire Aging Presents a Risk to Consumers
Drivers throughout California know that good tires are one of the keys to car safety. Unfortunately, some evidence indicates that tires six years old and older may present a significant safety risk, whether the tires have ever been on a vehicle or not, explains a California car accident lawyer.
When a tire sits on a car or on a store shelf, oxygen and ozonation can begin to break down its rubber molecules, causing the tire to degrade and to become less robust. As a result of weakened and degraded tires, the tread of the tire can begin to peel away from the rest of the tire, causing the vehicle to go out of control. Accidents are likely to occur when this happens, potentially causing serious injury to the occupants and others on the road.
The process of a tire becoming less robust over time is referred to as “tire aging.” Tire aging became a hot button issue in 2001 when Firestone tires on Ford Explorers began to experience tread separation, leading to a recall, accidents and class action lawsuits. After this incident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was ordered by Congress to pass a rule on tire age, and NHTSA established an investigation.
Research efforts were also launched by a consumer research group called Safety Research and Strategies and by Ford Motor Company, who recruited a former 3M polymer chemist. Although there was initial disagreement as far as how testing was to be conducted and how artificial aging tests were to be structured, eventually a tire aging protocol was reached, and NHTSA began research in earnest to evaluate the feasibility of a tire aging standard.
Based on research conducted to date, most experts now agree that tires six years of age and older are considered to be unsafe. The British Rubber Manufacturers Association (BRMA) has adopted this six-year standard, and Ford requested NHTSA adopt the six-year age limit based on their sponsored research.
Not every company, however, believes the six-year limit is appropriate. Bridgestone/ Firestone’s technical bulletin to its dealers advises inspection of tires after five years and replacement after ten, and Michelin, Continental and Cooper have the same guidelines as Bridgestone/Firestone. Standardization is, therefore, clearly required to ensure safety.
Older Tires Still on Shelves
While tire aging is clearly a risk, many people are unaware of the dangers. Customers routinely buy used tires without awareness of their age or of the fact that even a “new” six-year-old tire can be dangerous. Further, in 2008 an investigation conducted by ABC’s 20/20 revealed that some dealers are selling old tires as if they are new. Even major companies such as Sears and Wal-Mart may have old tires on their shelves since there is no expiration date. While those tires may have never been on a car, they could still be compromised as a result of their age and the degradation that occurs over time, explains a California car accident lawyer.
When an older tire is purchased and is damaged or dangerous, this can have tragic consequences. If separation of the treads does occur, the tire is likely to begin to self-destruct at higher speeds and during highway driving. The chances of an accident are very high in these situations and injury or death could result.
If you or someone you love was hurt as a result of an old, defective or dangerous tire, you may have certain legal rights. The manufacturer of the tire could potentially be sued depending upon the circumstances and the manufacturer’s position on tire aging as communicated to dealers. A store or dealer that sold you an older, dangerous tire could also potentially be to blame for any resulting damage that occurred, depending upon the information you were given at the time of the purchase and the risk that you assumed in the transaction.
With more research available from Ford, the Safety Research and Strategy Consumer Group and the NHTSA, plaintiffs who are filing lawsuits based on tire aging will have solid evidence demonstrating that the aged tires were dangerous and thus led to the accident. This can help make it easier for plaintiffs in California and throughout the United States to obtain fair compensation for injuries suffered.
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