The National Traffic Safety Board National Tire Recall System is “Completely Broken”

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Approximately 33,000 tire-related crashes occur each and every year, resulting in about 19,000 injuries and hundreds of deaths. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”), the majority of these injuries and deaths are preventable. The NTSB has concluded a ten month investigation into tire safety, and it’s findings support what safety advocates have been saying for years: the tire recall system is “completely broken,” and the industry gives “inconsistent and confusing” messages about tire aging. While Provost Umphrey is encouraged by the NTSB’s recommendations - tire safety problems will only be solved if industry stakeholders and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) are willing to enact meaningful reforms.

As part of its investigation, the NTSB studied recall data from 2009-2013, discovering that less than half of recalled tires were taken off the road and that includes tires removed for reasons completely unrelated to any recall. Why are the recall numbers so low? The answer is simple: recall notifications are not effectively communicated to consumers. The average consumer lacks the information, expertise and equipment necessary to check for recalls under the current system. While some vehicle service centers will determine a tire’s recall status as a crucial and indispensable part of servicing a car and will directly advise the customer in the event of a tire recall, others, including some of the largest vehicle service stores in the country, fail to check a tire’s recall status or notify the customer in the event of a recall.

The NTSB’s report includes several recommendations to improve the recall notification process, including;

- the mandatory registration of all tires at the point of sale;

- the use of “computerized” methods, such as radio frequency identification (“RFID”) chips and laser scan codes, to automate the transmission of recall information;

- that manufacturers be required to print TIN numbers on both sides of tires; and

- that both NHTSA and the tire manufacturers be required to place TIN searchable recall databases on their websites.

Tire-related crashes injure thousands of people and kill hundreds more each and every year. Most of these injuries and deaths are preventable. The NTSB identified significant problems with the way the industry and system warn consumers about recalled and aged tires, and offered solutions that could be easily implemented and would go a long way towards preventing needless injuries and deaths. The question is whether industry will accept its obligation to protect and advise consumers of dangerous and defective tire conditions or continue to turn a blind eye.

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