Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Why the gov’s new tire label is dangerous

Posted by lapearce on June 19, 2009

We pride ourselves on being a ‘car culture’ in this country, but this is a misnomer. Most of us don’t care at all about cars. We don’t care about handling or the dynamics of the car. Most of us just want something that is either big and comfortable, or reliable and fuel efficient that gets us where we need to go. We aren’t a car culture at all, we’re a driving culture.

It makes sense then that that in this driving culture masquarading as a car culture that the government can do something so stupid as waste money to provide people with information that is already provided and put fuel efficiency over safety.

Here is the sticker that the National Traffic Highway Saftey Administration spent your tax dollars researching and designing:

The label by law will need to be attached to all new tires so motorists can see (in order of importance, I guess) efficiency/green house rating, safety and longevity.

My first problem with this system is TIRES ALREADY HAVE ALL OF THIS INFORMATION ON THEM! The only thing is that the average consumer is too apathetic to learn how to decipher what the information on a tire means. With all the 4 for $100 tire deals that people take part in it is obvious that safety is not the most important thing to many people when it comes to buying tires: its price and how long the tire will last.

No one is told about how important tires are to your safety when they get their license, or even later on in life, which brings me to my second problem about this rating system: it puts fuel economy above safety.

Your tires are the ONLY thing connecting you to the ground, and their ONLY job is to keep you connected to the ground.

What tires are on your car, proper inflation, and wear are almost important as having working brakes. I get a lot of odd looks for this statement, but it is true. If you do not have grip, if your tire is not keeping you connected to the ground and you are sliding, it doesn’t matter what brakes you have: you will not stop. A “low rolling resistance” tire may be more fuel efficient, but it won’t stick to the ground like a high rolling resistance tire will. That resistance, that stickiness is what is keeping you connected to mother earth. And if you have ever been in a car that has lost traction and slid, you will know first hand how important that rolling resistance, that grip, is.

The Prius handles so poorly that we dont allow them to go faster than 30mph on our course fo the safety of the student

In the class I teach we have the students drive the car they will drive when they get their license. We get quite the ecletcic mix of vehicles, but my favorite are the Priuses (Prix) because of how absolutely horrible they are.

The Prius is a perfect point and case to my argument that people care more about fuel economy and reliability than they do safety. The car is very heavy because of the batteries, very narrow for fuel economy, and Toyota put these heavy, narrow cars on the skinniest, hardest, “lowest roll resistant” Goodyear tire they could have possibly found. The result? A vehicle that can’t keep up with an SUV in a turn. But hey, it gets good fuel economy right?

Well, that good fuel economy could be the difference between avoiding a crash and being in one. This isn’t just about Prix now, this is about all cars with rock hard, 85,000 mile tires that are good for the environment, but bad for consumers. According to Continental Tires these eco-friendly low emission tires have less grip and take longer to stop:

“extremely low rolling resistance and high mileage [tires] are 10-percent worse at wet braking than those with good all-round properties.” In one example, the eco friendly tires increased braking distance by more than 24 feet.

You want to talk about harm to the environment? How about getting new body parts manufactured out of plastic and metal, shipped to your body shop, painted and installed, then the old parts thrown in a junk yard. Or having your whole car sit in a junk yard because it was totalled. Or all of the harm the pharmacuticals you may be given after your crash do to the aquatic ecosystem, or all the plastics involved in medicine.

Why? All because you wanted to get .1 mpg more?

You may say, “But Lauren, they show the tire’s safety on the label!” No, they show the tire’s wet traction on the label, which in my educated opinion is not the same as safety. Many tires that do well in the wet do not do well in the dry. That information may be great for you in Seattle, but if you live in a place where it is sunnier more days than it is rainy then buying a tire based on its wet traction may not be the best idea for you, as you will be forfitting safety on dry days. Wet traction is important, but it is not the be all and end all of safety when it comes to chosing a tire. Tirerack has a great tire buying guide that shows both wet and dry traction.

It’s just not worth it people. If you want to get better fuel economy then follow these tips on how to drive. You’ll save a lot more money, and by not tailgating, leaving more room to stop and accelerating slower you’ll also reduce your crash risk. Take it from me. My car is rated 18/26 for fuel economy, but following those tips I was able to get 34mpg with wide, high rolling resistance, un-eco-friendly tires and freeway driving. That is a 35 percent mileage improvent compared to the 10 percent improvement they boast with these dangerous tires. You’ll get the same mpg gain by just keeping your tires properly inflated as you would by switching to an eco-friendly tire.

Skimping on tires just isn’t worth it. It isn’t safe and it could mean the difference between life and death. Trust me, the minuet differences in emmissions from a low rolling resistance tire and a high rolling resistance tire isn’t going to save the world, but it might save your life.


One Response to “Why the gov’s new tire label is dangerous”

  1. safedriver said

    Well said Lauren. Other safety features end up on the low end of our priorities to save us a buck. What about the human life…which is priceless. What’s the cost of a life versus fuel economy? This would include the cost of our passengers of course. I’m glad you and I are on the same page.


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