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Tire-Related Car Crashes

Tire-Related Car Crashes

Tire-related car crashes cause many fatalities per year.

Tire-Related Car Wrecks

Tires are one of the most important parts of a vehicle. They’re also one of the most neglected. Tires can last for around 50,000 to 75,000 miles, or four to five years of driving. But tires are not maintenance-free. They should be inspected regularly for tread depth, wear and tear, and pressure levels. Keeping tires in good shape can extend the lifetime of your tires, improve fuel economy, and keep you and other drivers safe.

Tens of thousands of tire-related crashes occur each year. Most of them are preventable. Drivers have a legal duty to make sure their vehicle is properly maintained. When they fail to do things like sustain adequate tire pressure and replace damaged or worn out tires—and this causes a crash—they could be held liable. Manufacturers could potentially be liable as well if tire failure results in an accident.

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Tire Failure: More Common Than You Might Think

Tires must be strong enough to bear thousands of pounds of weight over many thousands of travel miles, yet supple enough to take on a variety of different driving conditions. Tire technology has improved significantly over the years, but tire-related crashes are still surprisingly common.

Of all the potential points of failure on a vehicle, tires are among the most critical, because they’re the only vehicle part that makes contact with the road. There’s a lot riding on your tires—including the safety of you, your loves ones, and everyone you share the road with. The risk of tire failure is not overinflated, as the following statistics make clear:

  • Tire-related crashes were responsible for more than 600 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2019, according to NHTSA.
  • A report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that each year, there are roughly 33,000 tire-related passenger vehicle crashes. These crashes result in around 19,000 injuries.
  • 1 out of every 270 crashes in the U.S. was caused by tire failure over a recent 15-year period reports United Tires, citing data from the National Automotive Sampling System-Crashworthiness Data System.
  • The Texas Department of Transportation reported that “defective or slick tires” caused 4,350 car crashes in 2020, including 85 fatal crashes and nearly 700 injury crashes.
  • An estimated 6% of large truck crashes are due to tire problems, according to the largest-ever study of large truck crash causation.

Tire blowouts can be accompanied by a loud bang, boom, or pop. If you heard this sound coming from another vehicle prior to it striking you, this could be evidence of a blowout.

At the scene of the accident, you might notice other signs of tire failure on the other vehicle, such as separation from the rim, tire tread separation, bald tires, or underinflated tires. A police officer responding to the scene might note tire failure/tire maintenance in the accident report. Regardless, you should take photos of tire damage yourself, since this could be used to validate your car accident claim.

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Factors in Tire-Related Crashes

Tires are more than just the rubber that meets the road. The structural components of tires also include nylon and steel cords, a layer of textiles, an inner liner, and the tire bead. These outer and inner layers work in conjunction with air pressure to carry the load of a passenger vehicle, its cargo, and passengers.

As the only thing between you and the road, tires are a missed safety check away from critical failure. Tires can fail in multiple ways, but there are a couple of common tire problems that contribute to a large number of crashes—and are easily preventable.

Tire Pressure

Tire pressure affects fuel efficiency, handling, stopping distances, heat buildup, and the amount of stress on tire components. Failure to inflate tires to their manufacture recommended PSI can lead to catastrophic tire failure, such as blowouts or separations, says NHTSA. Yet only about 19% of consumers properly check and inflate their tires. And about 1 in 4 cars have at least one tire that is significantly underinflated.

Modern cars are equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that alerts drivers when their tire pressure is significantly low (about 25% below what it ought to be). But nearly half of drivers admit they don’t know what the TPMS dashboard warning symbol looks like. Ten percent admit to ignoring it altogether.

Tire Wear and Tear

The rubber in tires breaks down over time. How fast depends on the number of miles driven and the driving conditions. Heat accelerates the process of rubber breakdown.

Tread depth—measured to the nearest 1/32”—is a major indicator of a tire’s condition. Data from NHTSA shows that vehicles with tread depth of 2/32” or less experience tire problems three times more often than vehicles with tread depth of 3/32” – 4/32”. Most new tires have a starting tread depth of 10/32” – 11/32”.

However, even if the remaining tire tread is fine, tires that are old and not regularly driven on may be compromised in ways that can’t be detected through a visual inspection. Some manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are 6 – 10 years old, even if they have normal tread depth.

Other Tire-Related Crash Factors

Tire pressure and tire tread depth rank near the top for tire-related crash factors. Other factors that can create safety issues include:

  • Tire damage: Prior to a crash, there could be tire flaws or damage, such as partial or complete tread separation.
  • Road conditions: Conditions like wet roads, slick surfaces, and washed out roads are dangerous on their own. Combined with underinflated tires or tires with poor tread depth, dangerous road conditions can be significantly more hazardous.
  • Overloading: Tires come with a load index that indicates its load carrying capacity. Overloading tires can damage them and negatively impact vehicle handling.
  • Manufacturer defects: Manufacturers regularly issue recalls over tire defects. In 2021, there were more than 100 tire recalls. A single recall by Cooper Tires affected more than 430,000 tires with defects that could cause bulging or separation in the sidewall. Recalled tires typically have an increased risk of failure.
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Who Is Liable for a Tire-Related Car Crash?

A number of different parties could bear blame for a tire-related car accident:

Vehicle Owner

The owner or operator of a vehicle with poorly-maintained tires, such as underinflated tires or tires with low tread depth, could be considered negligent if the condition of their tires causes a wreck.

In Texas, for the purpose of passing a state safety inspection, the minimum allowable tread depth is 2/32”. State law also indicates that, “all tires must appear to be properly inflated—even though a gauge check is not required.” For commercial vehicles like buses, trucks, and tractor trailers, a tread depth of at least 4/32” is required. The state has additional tire safety requirements concerning visual tire damage, including tread or sidewall separation.

If a vehicle’s tires do not meet minimum Texas tire safety requirements, this could be evidence of driver/owner negligence. But meeting state requirements doesn’t necessarily mean tires are safe. Consumer Reports recommends shopping for tires when tread depth reaches 4/32”.

Tire Manufacturer

Tires that have a defective design or a manufacturing defect are unsafe even when their inflation levels and tread depth are normal. Responsibility for a defective tire accident typically lies with the manufacturer, but the distributor or tire seller could be hit with a defective tire claim as well.

Third Parties

A variety of third parties (that is, somebody other than you and the driver that hits you) could be to blame for tire failure. For example, if nails fall out of a contractor’s truck and puncture a driver’s tire—and this causes them to lose control—the contractor might be liable. Or, you could hit a pothole that compresses the sidewall and leads to tire failure. In this case, it could be a local government or road maintenance company that is responsible.

When a large truck crash is caused by tire failure, a number of parties might be to blame, including the truck driver, the trucking company, or a truck maintenance/repair company. Large truck accidents are notoriously complex due to the many state and federal laws that regulate truck commerce. Texas has an entire set of regulations just for commercial vehicle tires.

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The Road To Recovery Starts With Jim Adler & Associates

Negligence can extend beyond the actions a driver takes on the road. It can extend to the maintenance they neglect to do at home. Tires are one of the few parts of a vehicle that almost anybody can take care of themselves. Regular inspections can prevent many tire-related crashes. But a large number of drivers can’t even be bothered to check their tire pressure. If a tire is defective, though, no amount of upkeep will make it safe.

A prompt and thorough car accident investigation can reveal poorly maintained tires and other vehicle maintenance issues. With evidence of negligence, you are in a strong position to receive a full and fair result.

At Jim Adler & Associated, we’ve been helping injured Texans for more than 30 years. With offices in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Channelview, we help car and truck accident victims statewide. There are many car accident attorneys in Texas, but there’s only one Texas hammer. For a free case review, call or contact us.

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