Hot Tires, High Risk… and How to Have a Tire-Safer Summer

Photo of the accident van.
NTSB investigated a hot summer tire blowout crash in July 2001 in Randleman, North Carolina. A 15-passenger van overturned on the highway, killing 1 person and injuring 12 others.

By Amy Terrone, Safety Advocacy Division

When you drive on hot roads at highway speeds your tires get hot. And when your tires get hot, you’re at greater risk for a blowout and potentially a crash. Fortunately, there are ways you can head off the risk before heading off to the beach.

How many times have we driven by a family in a minivan on the side of the road changing their tire in 98-degree weather? Being stranded is no fun, but it can be much worse. Tire blowouts can also lead to a loss of vehicle control and a crash.

According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the summer months of June–August are associated with the highest number of tire-related fatal crashes.

Why the increase in crashes during the summer? A variety of reasons, such as more teen drivers on the road and vacationers navigating unfamiliar congested highways. But another cause is tire blowouts.

Hot tires can lead to blowouts, especially if the tires are underinflated.

NHTSA estimates that tire failure causes about 11,000 crashes a year, leading to more than 600 deaths and about 19,000 injuries. A common cause of tire failure is underinflated tires. Underinflation also leads to sluggish handling, longer stopping distances, and increased stress on tire components. If you need to be reminded of how dangerous a tire blowout can be, check out this video.

Memorial weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season. It also kicks off National Tire Safety Week (May 24-30), a week established 14 years ago by the Rubber Manufacturers Association to remind consumers about the importance of tire safety (see Be Tire Smart—Play Your PART). Being safe on the roads means regularly checking tire air pressure, alignment, and tread, and rotating tires.

The NTSB has investigated a number of tire failure crashes, including several in recent years, so we know first-hand the dangers of underinflated and poorly maintained tires. In honor of Tire Safety Week and the start of the summer season, the NTSB released a Safety Alert today outlining how tire registration and periodic maintenance can reduce the risk of crashes.

Please, as you embark on this summer of fun, take a moment to check your tires before loading the car with your camping gear, suitcases, fishing rods, and coolers. It’s a simple act that could save you money and time down the road, and it could also save your life…and that’s no hot air.

One thought on “Hot Tires, High Risk… and How to Have a Tire-Safer Summer”

  1. It is really concerning to me that driving in the summer can cause more problems with tire blowouts. I definitely want to avoid this happening this summer when my family goes on a road trip. It sounds like one of the best things to do is to check the tires before you go on any long trips. Since our trip is coming up in a few weeks, it might be good for me to take this advice and get the tire pressure checked, but also take it in to see if the tires are aligned and that the tread is not worn out!

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