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Safety group pleads its case for expiration dates on tires

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Safety Research & Strategies Inc. (SRS) has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about helping consumers determine the age of their tires. In addition, the Rehoboth, Mass.-based research and development firm would like to set a firm six-year expiration date on tires.

In a letter to Dr. Jeffrey Runge, NHTSA administrator, SRS President Sean Kane asked NHTSA to consider the company´s petition to mold a consumer-friendly date of manufacture into the sidewall. He says hazards associated with tire aging require the Petition for Rulemaking.

"Regardless of any future agency action on the issue of tire aging, a simple date of manufacture will not create a conflict with other possible requirements," he wrote.

Kane also submitted the firm´s official comments pertaining to the agency´s stated intention to research the deterioration of tire performance caused by aging. He suggests NHTSA should immediately issue a "Consumer Advisory" alerting the public to the dangers of aged tires.

"The advisory should warn consumers that testing has shown tires have a much greater propensity to fail as they age and that both vehicle and tire manufacturers... recommend light truck and passenger tires older than six years from the date of manufacture should not be used, particularly spares."

Kane bases SRS´ position on the following:

* "research into real-world cases of tread belt separation" in six-year-old and older tires;

* technical papers and presentations;

* industry documents;

* deposition testimony; and

* consultation with tire experts.

According to Kane, SRS has identified "a significant number of additional cases of catastrophic tread belt separations in ´aged´ tires, bringing the number to nearly 50, with at least 37 fatalities

and 35 serious injuries."

At the very least, Kane wants NHTSA to take "immediate remedial action" and to work with the industry to share information about the hazards of tire aging "in a meaningful way with consumers as an interim step toward solving the problem."

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