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Aged Tires Sold Routinely, Implicated in Accidents and Deaths

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Good tires are vital to keeping you and your loved ones safe on the road, and the age of a tire is a key factor in tire safety and performance. So you might be shocked to find out that aged tires – tires older than six – are routinely sold by some of the country’s biggest retailers.

At least that’s what was revealed by a report that recently aired on the ABC News show 20/20. For the investigation, 20/20 and ABC affiliates from across the country visited Sears, Wal-Mart and other retailers to find out if they were selling older tires as new. They discovered:

• tires made in 2001 and 1999 being sold at an Indianapolis, Ind. Wal-Mart;

• two aged tires dating back to 1999 and 2000 for sale at a Wal-Mart store in Orlando, FL;

• nearly a dozen aged tires being sold as new as part of a special “manager’s clearance sale.” at Sears stores.

Research and tests show that as tires age, they begin to dry out and become potentially dangerous. The British Rubber Manufacturers Association, which also includes the major tire makers, has warned that “unused tyres (sic) should not be put into service if they are over 6 years old.” Ford Motor Company has also urged the federal government to impose a six year expiration date for tires.

Aged tires have been blamed for catastrophic accidents and deaths. As of June 2008, the Safety Research & Strategies (SRS) had counted 159 incidents in which tires older than six years experienced tread / belt separations-most resulting in loss-of-control crashes. These incidents were the cause of 128 fatalities and 168 injuries. The SRS count also included an additional 10 cases involving tires older than five years at the time of failure (half of which were more than five-and-a-half years old at the time of failure). These 10 incidents accounted for an additional 14 fatalities and 24 injuries.

One of those victims was Andrew “Andy” Moore, a gifted student and musician from Newtown, PA, who died in a 2002 van accident caused by the sudden tread separation of a tire which had been sold to the family years earlier as new. In reality, the Firestone tire was nearly four-years old at the time of purchase by Robert Moore, Andy’s father, 20/20 said.

In 2004, SRS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to act on aged tires, but nothing was done at the time. Critics have long charged the agency with dragging its feet on the issue of aged tires, despite its past acknowledgement that aged tires are a serious safety risk. It wasn’t until 2008 that the NHTSA finally issued a consumer advisory warning motorists that outdated tires, even if they appear to be brand new, can lead to “catastrophic failure.” Sadly, the tire industry has fought efforts to require an expiration date on tires, maintaining that age is not the key factor in tire safety and performance.

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