How safe are your tires?
According to the government agency that oversees vehicle safety, drivers may have no idea they're driving on unsafe tires.
The National Transportation Safety Board says hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries occur each year because of tire-related crashes, many of which are preventable.
A disconnect between tire manufacturers, tire dealers and the customers have led to many customers not registering their tires, which makes it difficult for manufacturers to alert drivers when their tires have been recalled due to a defect.
The NTSB, which calls the registration and recall process ineffective, says it is seeking authority to make registration a requirement so drivers will receive notifications.
Although drivers are encouraged to either register their tires online with the manufacturer or fill out a tire registration card provided at the point of sale, a study by the NTSB found that neither happens very frequently. Of 3.2 million tires recalled between 2009 and 2013, the NTSB found that the recall completion rate was only 44 percent.
Typically, about 20 percent of recalled tires are returned to the manufacturer, the NTSB says. By contrast, about 78 percent of vehicles recalled due to other defects are serviced.
Factory dealers and distributors are required to register newly purchased tires on behalf of the consumer, however independent tire dealers - where most Americans purchase tires - don't face the same requirement. The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimates that only 10 percent of tires sold by these dealers are registered.
The NTSB made several recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in hopes of improving the process so more drivers are receiving notifications when their tires are recalled.
Among the most newsworthy recommendations, include:
Requiring all tire dealers to register tires during each sale. This would include adding personal information, such as the buyer's phone number, car VIN number and email address, so the manufacturer can alert drivers of any recalls.
Develop a computerized method of storing registration information at the point of sale.
Include information on the tire registration form, such as the buyer's email, telephone and VIN number to make it easier for the tire manufacturer to find the driver.
Require manufacturers to put safety recall information on their website, searchable by tire identification numbers.
The "recommendations, if acted upon, hold the promise of saving some of the more than 500 lives lost to tire-related crashes every year," NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a statement. "Better tire registration processes, more accessible tire-recall information, and ultimately better recall completion rates will be crucial to reducing tire-related crashes and deaths."
Chris Pfefferle, president of Pfefferle Tire & Automotive Service in Hamilton, Ohio, says registering tires at local dealers would create additional work, but he can understand why it's being suggested.
"I think it would be better if we did it for the customer," he says.
Randal Regan, service writer with the highly rated Marc Yount's Tire Pros in Evans, Ga., isn't sure of an exact solution, but adds he doesn't think the burden should be placed on the dealer.
"It's just like anything else, you register when you buy it," Regan says. "People are just not following through. [The manufacturer] needs to come up with a better way to track their tires."