State officials offer tire safety tips for holiday motorists

From Staff Reports

   The Tennessee Attorney General's Office and Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs has released a number of tips to help consumers stay safe while traveling by automobile during the Thanksgiving holiday.
   The tips follow a nationwide agreement with Bridgestone/Firestone regarding allegedly defective tires and misrepresentations made during the tire replacement and promotion processes.
   Paul G. Summers, Tennessee Attorney General, said, "While we are doing what we can to protect Tennesseans, we want to arm them with some vital information to help them use tires in the safest manner possible."
   Dave McCollum, director of Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, said two items are basic ownership tools and should be in every glove compartment: the owner's manual and a tire gauge.
   "If you don't own a tire gauge, put it at the top of your 'must buy' list. This inexpensive device measures the air pressure in the tire and, when used regularly, can save its cost hundreds of times over."
   Safety tips include:
   * Check tire inflation pressure at least monthly. Under inflation can be as dangerous as over inflation. Tires lose air over time and even faster when the weather turns colder. Under inflated tires wear more rapidly at the outer edges while overinflated tires wear at the center of the tread. In addition to extending tire life, proper inflation helps save fuel and ensures safe steering and handling of a vehicle.
   * Different types of tires are for different purposes. A tire that is best for off-road use is usually not best for highway driving. Most SUV's are never driven off-road. When buying tires, be sure to discuss with your tire representative how you will use the tire.
   * Tires are rated for traction, temperature resistance and tread wear. The rating should appear on the tire's sidewall. The first rating is a treadwear rating (the higher the number, the better wear rate), the second is a traction rating (AA, A, B, or C with AA being the best), and the third is a temperature resistance rating (A, B, or C with A being the best).
   * Look in the owner's manual for the vehicle manufacturer's recommendation for tire pressure and rotation. Rotating tires helps ensure they wear evenly. Generally, tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 7,000 miles.
   * Visually examine all four tires monthly for signs of trouble. Look for cuts, cracks, bumps or bulges on either the sidewall or the tread.
   * Overloaded vehicles can be dangerous. The Gross Vehicle Weight of the vehicle, which includes the total weight of the vehicle including contents and passengers, must not be more than the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Overloading the vehicle or the tires on the vehicle could present a safety risk. Also, pay attention to the vehicle manufacturer's limitations on the weight that can be carried on the roof rack.
   * When considering the purchase of a vehicle, look at the vehicle's rollover resistance rating. These ratings, first released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in February for 2001 models, rate by stars, with five-star vehicles being the most stable and one-star vehicles being the least stable.
   * Use seat belts. The Safety Administration when first announcing the ratings, pointed out: "Our best chance of surviving a rollover is by buckling up. Eighty percent of the people killed in single-vehicle rollovers were unbelted, and we know that belted occupants are about 75 percent less likely to be killed in a rollover crash than unbelted occupants."