Tires Cause Crashes: Air Pressure and Under-Inflated Tires are Dangerous

Tires Cause Crashes: Air Pressure and Under-Inflated Tires are Dangerous

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a new federal agency rule regarding Tire Pressure Warnings — which apparently took awhile to get passed and published.

An earlier version of the federal rule was challenged in a federal lawsuit and overturned.  After going back to the rulemaking table, the federal safety agency issued a new rule that will require systems that monitor the amount of air pressure in tires.

These new Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) alert the driver when the air pressure in one of their tires gets below a certain amount and is considered to be dangerously low in the amount of air in the tire.

These monitoring systems should be very helpful to many of us who drive cars, SUVs, minivans, and the like because drivers may walk around their vehicles and eyeball the tires, even give them a good kick or two, and still not be aware that the air pressure is too low and they have a dangerous situation to address.

Right now, these TPMS systems are only required to work on tires that come with the vehicle when it is sold and not on replacement tires.

Dangers of Under-Inflated Tires

Why is this important? It’s good because the public needs to know about the real risks of driving a vehicle without enough air in the tires. Simple enough to fix, and all to easy to procrastinate in checking the tires to make sure there’s enough air pressure in them.


Under-inflated tire results in tire worn down to cords.


From the NHTSA rule:

Under-inflation affects many different types of crashes. These include crashes which result from:

1. an increase in stopping distance,
2. flat tires and blowouts,
3. skidding and/or a loss of control of the vehicle in a curve, like an off-ramp maneuver coming off of a highway at high speed, or simply taking a curve at high speed,
4. skidding and/or loss of control of the vehicle in a lane change maneuver,
5. hydroplaning on a wet surface, which can affect both stopping distance and skidding and/or loss of control, or
6. overloading the vehicle.

The agency has quantified the effects of under-inflation in a crash involving skidding and loss of control, flat tires and blowouts, and the reduction in stopping distance. However, it cannot quantify the effects of under-inflation on hydroplaning and overloading the vehicles. The primary reason that the agency cant quantify these benefits is the lack of crash data indicating tire pressure and how large of a problem these conditions represent by themselves, or how often they are contributing factors to a crash. The agency has just starting collecting tire pressure in its crash data investigations.

Get Your Tires Check for Free at Discount Tire

There are some chains and service stations that will check your tire’s air pressure for free. For example, the Discount Tire chain in Indiana and Illinois offers free Air Checks — just drive in, they will check the air in your tires, no cost and you don’t have to exit your vehicle.  (Not a paid advertisement here — just that this is a great service, nice to share it.)

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