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U.S. Lacks Tire Safety Knowledge

November 15, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The huge recall of Firestone tires linked to 119 U.S. traffic deaths has prompted many drivers to pay more attention to tire maintenance, but most Americans still know little about what’s needed to ensure safe tires, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association, which commissioned the poll, plans to use the results in a campaign promoting tire maintenance and safety.

``What we’ve found is that people just assume that their tires are indestructible, but we all know that tires fail,″ said Isabel Jasinowski of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

The nationwide survey asked 400 licensed drivers to answer 16 questions about tire safety and maintenance. No one received an A, while 36 percent scored a D and 41 percent an F, meaning they answered fewer than 10 questions correctly.

Among the findings:

_ 55 percent did not know where to find the correct pressure recommendation for their tires, though 78 percent thought they knew. The recommended pressure is set by the vehicle manufacturer and is in the owner’s manual and on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or fuel door.

_ 72 percent did not know tires should be rotated every 6,000 miles.

_ 78 percent did not know a tire should be replaced when the tread depth reaches one-sixteenth of an inch.

_ When asked about what routine maintenance is done on their vehicles, only 4 percent mentioned tire pressure checks. The association recommends the pressure be checked once a month and before every long trip.

_ 63 percent said they had a tire gauge in their vehicle, but 60 percent said they never checked the pressure in their spare.

The association is planning a multimillion-dollar campaign that includes advertisements and driver education classes through AAA and other organizations. The campaign is called ``Be Tire Smart _ Play your PART,″ with the latter an acronym for pressure, alignment, rotation and tread, the key aspects of tire maintenance.

The campaign has been in the planning stages since before Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.’s Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires, but has been expanded since then, the association said.

Two out of five drivers surveyed said they pay more attention to tire maintenance because of the recall, which was prompted by hundreds of reports of tread separation and blowouts.

``I think good can come out of the heightened coverage, particularly if in that coverage we incorporate messages about what you can do on a preventive basis,″ said Donald Shea, president of the association, which includes Bridgestone/Firestone.

Bridgestone/Firestone officials say they have replaced more than 5 million tires under recall and they hope to finish the campaign by the end of the month.

The survey was conducted by Fleishman-Hillard Research and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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On the Net:

Rubber Manufacturers Association: http://www.rma.org

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