Any automotive technician will tell you that the two biggest safety issues for motor vehicles are brakes and tires. We tend to pay attention when the brakes on our car aren’t working properly, but tires are another story. It’s not just how much tread you have left — even if you don’t drive your car a lot of miles, tires become unsafe because they deteriorate with age.
“Old tires have a much higher risk of failure than newer ones,” said Brian D. Knauth, lead attorney for personal injury law, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “Most manufacturers don’t provide an expiration date, or they give one that’s unrealistic. Tire failures have caused accidents where passengers and drivers have been severely injured, or even killed.”
Tires are still manufactured mainly by hand and poor plant conditions or bad placement of components such as the belt plies can lead to failure, even in relatively new tires. Poor design, such as building a tire with a thin inner liner, can lead to oxidation of the rubber, making the tires brittle and susceptible to tearing or to separation of the tread.
“Think of your tire like a rubber band that’s been left out in the sun. It might be very elastic at first, but it soon loses that elasticity, breaks down and becomes easy to tear,” Knauth said. “In the case of truck tires, which carry much greater loads than passenger vehicles, design is particularly critical.”
Several years ago one of the biggest personal injury settlements in the history of New York State was awarded to a young man who had been paralyzed as the result of a defective tire on a relatively new pick-up truck he was driving. If you are injured in an accident that may be related to defective tires, seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.
“We will do our best for you, and in cases like this it’s a challenge to prove the accident was related to a defective tire, so you need an attorney with experience in this area,” Knauth said. “But in the end, all the money in the world doesn’t make up for the losses someone like this young man experienced.”
“Be vigilant about checking your tires. There is a Department of Transportation number on one sidewall of every tire which tells when the tire was manufactured. That number is the key to knowing exactly how old the tire is.”
The DOT requires four numbers, the last two give the year the tire was built, and the first two the week of the year it was built. The number 3416, for example, means the tire was manufactured the 34th week of 2016.