Safety Research & Strategies Raises Tire Age Profile in California; Tire Aging Consumer Disclosure Bill Clears Committee

SACRAMENTO, CA - One of the nation's first laws to require tire dealers to disclose the age of each tire prior to sale or installation cleared an important hurdle Tuesday, when the California state legislature's Assembly Business and Professions committee passed it by a vote of 6 to 4.

Bill AB 496 was submitted by Assemblyman Mike Davis and sponsored by Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc, with support from American Center for Van and Tire Safety, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (ASFCME), Consumer Attorneys of California and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

The bill requires tire dealers to disclose the age of a tire to consumers in writing before the sale or installation of a tire.  Along with the tire age, dealers must provide the following statement about the increased hazards of aged tires:

"Tires deteriorate with age, even if they have never or seldom been used. As tires age they are more prone to sudden failure that can cause a vehicle to crash. This applies also to the spare tire and tires that are stored for future use. Heat caused by hot climates or frequent high loading conditions can accelerate the aging process. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend that tires be replaced after six years, regardless of the remaining tread depth."

Dealers would be required to retain those sales records for three years. The penalty for violating the law is $250.

"This is the first step towards minimizing opportunities for vehicle crashes as a result of aged tires in the state of California.  This public policy will neither burden businesses nor deny consumers the opportunity to have important information that can save their lives" said Assemblyman Davis.

Davis was moved to submit the bill after a staff member saw in a story about tire aging on ABC News' 20/20.  The report, based on SRS' advocacy, featured that story of William Moreno, a 12-year-old from Los Angeles, who died in a rollover crash when a 12-year spare tire recently installed by a tire dealer suffered a tread separation.  The 2008 investigative report, which became one of the most widely viewed ABC News stories in 2008, also showed that tire dealers were selling "new" tires that were actually 6-10 years old.

"Right now the tire manufacturers, the vehicle manufacturers, and NHTSA are aware of the hazards associated with aged tires.  But tire dealers and the public have largely been out of the loop.  The lack of a systematic approach to educating and warning dealers continues to result in the aged tires being put into service and causing catastrophic crashes" says Sean Kane.

The issue of tire age degradation was first addressed in the U.S. in response to the Ford-Firestone tire debacle. Experts concluded that age degradation played a role in the catastrophic failure of these tires and a growing number of tire manufacturers and automakers issued tire age replacement guidelines for the U.S. market. In the last ten years, vehicle and tire manufacturers have warned consumers against using tires beyond six, or in some cases, 10 years.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted research showing that tires degrade with age, it has yet to translate that research into a policy. In the meantime, four states -New York, New Jersey, California and Hawaii have jumped into the breach. State lawmakers are in the process of considering a variety of consumer remedies. The California legislation focuses on consumer disclosure, as does a pending regulation in New Jersey, where the state's Division of Consumer Affairs is accepting public comment on a regulation mandating disclosure of tire age. A measure in Hawaii would prohibit the sale of tires older than six years. The New York assembly is mulling a law that would force manufacturers to mold the date of manufacture on both sides of the sidewall in a non-coded fashion.

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