WASHINGTON - In a consumer advisory launched June 2, the U.S. Department of Transportation urged all motorists to inspect their tires for proper inflation and signs of tread wear and damage before driving in hot weather.
The consumer advisory coincides with National Tire Safety Week, June 5-11, and comes at a time when driving increases with the kick-off of the summer travel season.
"As the weather warms up, it's especially important for drivers to ensure their tires are properly inflated," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "For your safety and the safety of others on the road, inspect your tires regularly and maintain the proper inflation."
The latest data from the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that over the five-year period from 2005 to 2009, nearly 3,400 people died, and an estimated 116,000 were injured, in tire-related crashes.
While it's true improperly maintained tires can contribute to a crash at any time of year, it is particularly critical for motorists to check tires during hot weather, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland warned. "Underinflated tires spinning on hot asphalt for extended periods of time can be a recipe for disaster."
The DOT urges motorists to check their tire pressure before long trips and to inspect tires periodically. Motorists should also be aware that aging tires and hot weather can be a potentially deadly combination, as older tires are more susceptible to heat stress, especially if they are not properly inflated. Motorists should check the tire sidewall to see how old their tires are, and check with the tire manufacturer or the vehicle owner's manual for recommendations on how often to change tires.
Properly inflated tires will also improve a vehicle's fuel. According to the Department of Energy's fueleconomy.gov Web site, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) drop in pressure of all four tires.
For example, for a vehicle with a fuel-economy rating of 30 miles per gallon and a 35 PSI tire pressure recommendation, a drop of 25 percent in tire pressure would equate to a loss of 8.8 percent in fuel economy, or a drop of 2.6 miles per gallon.