The bad weather has shown its face early this year, and just in time for holiday travel. Before heading to your Thanksgiving destination your checklist might include packing your bags, shopping for road snacks, and bringing enough activities to keep everyone busy on the ride. You’ll probably grab a coffee and gas up before you go too. Yet, one important step that people neglect is checking their tire pressure.
Low tire pressure can increase a driver's risk for accidents on the road. With the drastic weather conditions to come, Marylanders may already notice an impact on their tires. Tires usually drop between 1-2 pounds of pressure for every 10 degrees of drop in temperature. The lower the temperature, the higher the risk that a tire could fail on the road.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.), 738 motor vehicle fatalities were caused by tire-related crashes in 2017, and nearly 11,000 others are injured by these accidents every year. Tires are essential to keeping our cars moving safely on the road. When a tire fails or blows out, our vehicles can become uncontrollable, triggering dangerous and deadly accidents to occur.
Problems With TPMS
Low tire pressure is the number one cause of tire failure on the road. Unfortunately, most people don’t even think to check their tire pressure, especially on regular trips to the store or to work. Though the number of tire-related crashes has been reduced over the years since the invention of the automatic tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), these devices are not always accurate and can give drivers a false impression of how safe their tires really are.
Before the invention of TPMS, drivers had to rely on checking their tire pressure frequently or listening/feeling for signs of low tire pressure, all which were pretty ineffective in reducing the probability of an accident. There are two types of TPMS in most vehicles:
- Direct TPMS- uses seniors mounted to the wheels to measure air pressure in tires and alerts the driver when pressure drops below 25%.
- Indirect TPMS- works with your vehicles’ Antilock Braking System speed sensors which cause tires to roll at a different speed when low tire pressure is detected.
Both these systems have helped reduce the number of tire-related vehicles accidents but they are not perfect. TPSM’s have a number of flaws that can give drivers a false impression of their tire conditions including:
- TPSM sensors can stop working or work intermittently due to dead or low batteries.
- Signals from the sensors can fail due to antenna or wiring issues.
- TPSM as a whole may stop functioning due to voltage, wiring or electronics failures.
- Tires recently serviced or rotated may not be recognized correctly by the system.
- Corrosion on the inside valve system could cause sensors to malfunction.
The most common reason for TPSM failures is that sensors are just too old or worn out to work properly. These seniors have a lifespan of about 5 to 7 years but may work for even less time if you put a lot of miles on your car.
Holiday Weekends Increase Accident Risks
Driving on congested or busy roads can cause tire-related accidents to become even more severe. According to AAA, over 54 million people traveled by road during the holidays last year, nearly 5 percent more than in 2017. If the 2019 travel predictions hold true to years prior, checking your tires will be a critical step to keeping your family safe.
Experiencing tire failure on busy holiday roads can put drivers and passengers at serious risk in two ways:
- If you are driving when you experience a tire blow out, your car could hit others around you at high speeds, sending multiple cars out of control.
- If you are able to park on the side of a road, your car and family are at risk of sideswipe accidents that can be deadly particularly on highways and parkways.
In addition, holiday traffic and an increase in accidents can cause a lag in when first responders and emergency services arrive. Not to mention, winter brings some pretty nasty weather conditions that only increases the wait and the possibility and severity of a tire-related accident.
How To Prevent Low Tire Pressure Accidents
Most tire-related accidents are completely preventable with a little maintenance before your trip begins. Drivers can help prevent accidents caused by low tire pressure by using these safety tips before driving:
- Check your tire pressure monthly or before a trip.
- Use air pumps that read the pressure as it fills and stops automatically.
- Make sure TPMS sensors are replaced every 5 to 7 years or 60,000 to 80,000 miles.
- Know what your low tire pressure light looks like.
- Don’t ignore the tire pressure light, even if you just checked the pressure.
- Never assume temperature is to blame for low tire pressure. Even if the weather is cold, your tires could have been low, to begin with.
What To Do If Your Tire Blows
Sometimes, no matter how much we prepare, tires do not cooperate with our trip. If you do experience a tire blowout while on the road, use these safety tips by Travelers to handle the situation as safely as possible:
- • Stay calm:
- • Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
- • Slow down gradually…don’t slam on the brakes!
- • Pull over to the side of the road when you hit a safe speed.
- • Only exit the vehicle if you are out of harm’s way.
- • Turn emergency flashers on.
- • Call for roadside assistance if it is not safe to change your own tire.
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