Safety Group Seeks Tire Expiration Date

November 9, 2004

Citing dozens of fatal crashes linked to older tires with little wear and tear, a consumer safety group is asking the federal government to require “born-on” dates for car and truck tires.

SRS Inc., a Massachusetts auto-safety research firm, sent the petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It provided analysis from 50 crashes resulting in 37 deaths that involved different makes of tires by most leading manufacturers.

According to Sean Kane, president of SRS, tire performance can begin to degrade after six years because of the rubber’s age — even if the tires have not been used.

“It’s an invisible hazard,” Kane told The Detroit News. “The industry knows a lot about it, and they have recommendations that they’ve hidden from the public for years. Just about every other product, from food to paint, has an expiration date on it.”

The tire industry is studying tire aging, said Donald Shea, president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, a Washington lobbying group. But he said there is no data to suggest any specific age makes a tire less strong.

Manufacturers are concerned that putting an expiration date on tires would create a false perception that newer tires are safe, regardless of driving conditions, maintenance or wear.

“We’ve got safety concerns,” Shea said. “But we would like to make a decision based on data.”

Kane urged NHTSA administrator Jeffrey Runge to issue an advisory to consumers as the agency considers the SRS petition.

NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said the agency had not yet reviewed the petition and could not comment. By law, NHTSA officials have 120 days to reject or accept it.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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