You know your tires are responsible for getting you from A to B. But how much do you really know about the safety of those four wheels under your vehicle? Here are some surprising facts uncovered in a new AAA study about tire safety and tread depth.
Tires are the only point of contact between vehicles and the road. Every safety and control system in the vehicle relies on the ability of the car’s tires to maintain adequate traction. That is why safety guidelines are imposed on how worn vehicle tires can be before they are considered illegal to drive on.
The agency states that tires with a tread depth of 2/32” or less will not pass state safety inspections. Tires with tread below this threshold are known to be insufficient for a vehicle’s needs, especially in wet conditions.
However, a new study by AAA suggests that even tires that are within our state’s limits are more dangerous than people may realize.
How Safe Is the 2/32” Tire Depth Minimum?
AAA found that a tread depth of even 4/32”, twice as deep as the state standard for replacement, was measurably unsafe.
The agency conducted tests on wet roads at speeds of 60 mph to compare the stopping ability of brand new tires versus those with a tread depth of 4/32”.
The tests discovered that, compared to new tires, those with a tread depth of 4/32” increased stopping distance by 43% – which means another 87 feet of stopping distance for cars. Put another way, the point at which the new tires reach a complete stop, the worn tires continue to travel at speeds of nearly 40 mph. No matter how hard you hit the brakes; your tires will keep traveling and could potentially cause a collision.
If you think buying more expensive tires is the answer, AAA has a caveat about that. The study found that tread depth had a much larger influence on tire performance than the cost of the tires. Worn tire performance for the most expensive all-season tires did not perform significantly better than the less expensive all-season tires in the study.
Precautionary Measures & Tire Tread Depth
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that one in every 11 crashes involved an issue with a tire prior to the accident.
So what can you do to help try to keep your tires up to par?
- Inform yourself of the functions and proper maintenance of your tires. Take matters into your own hands and stay up to date with information on tire safety.
- Test your own tire depth using a quarter. Turn the quarter upside down and place it in the tread; if you can see anything above the top of Washington’s hair, it is time to change the tire.
- Don’t wait to change your tires. Change them before they reach a tread depth of 4/32” instead of waiting until they reach the state-mandated minimum of 2/32”.
AAA notes that the 2/32” minimum may provide benefits in the form of lower warranty costs for manufacturers, but the human cost could be too high to ignore.
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