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Tires and car safety: What every mom needs to know

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Tire safety 101

Ask any mom what her priorities are, and it's a sure bet she'll mention the safety of her children. Surprisingly, there's a huge information gap when it comes to a product moms rely on for their family's safety every day — tires.

A new tire

Despite moms' best efforts to buy the safest vehicles and cocoon their children in the highest-rated car seats, they're forgetting one simple fact — the only parts of the car that touch the road are the tires. "A car can only stop as well as its tires," says Darlene Gray, education specialist for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. "Even with driving aids like antilock brakes, traction control and all-wheel drive, how well a car performs is governed by its tires." With under-inflated tires contributing to more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries annually, according to estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it's clear — tires matter.

Study shows lack of tire knowledge

In September 2011, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. released the results of a survey of 400 U.S. mothers, which showed that moms have a significant lack of knowledge when it comes to tires:

  • Nine out of 10 moms do not regularly maintain their vehicles, leaving the duties to a male household member or professional.
  • Twenty-five percent cannot find their vehicle's correct tire pressure, properly check tread depth or change a tire.
  • Only 1 percent considered tire maintenance a priority when thinking of keeping their children safe, and less than 1 percent reported automotive maintenance as a way to ensure their children's safety.

So what should moms do to make sure their tires are safe? Be informed when buying tires, and keep tires properly maintained.

Tire buying tips

According to women's automotive advice website AskPatty.com, women are making over 60 percent of tire purchases, yet in many cases they're not always fully informed. Research is key in choosing the right tires.

  • Use an online tire buying tool. Take advantage of interactive tools like the Bridgestone Tire Advisor, Team Michelin Tire Selector or Goodyear's tire locator. These quick tools will ask you to indicate your vehicle's year, make, model and, in some cases, the driving attributes you value most. You'll then be presented with suggested tires to suit your vehicle and driving requirements.
  • Do your research. Would you choose your child's car seat because it was the cheapest you could find? Probably not. However, according to a 2011 Marketplace Insights study, 40 percent of female tire buyers named price as their top consideration. Research tire safety ratings at safercar.gov and read tire reviews at ConsumerReports.org.

Tire maintenance

Take just 10 minutes each month to make sure your tires are properly maintained. Bridgestone education specialist Chris Welty suggests using your birthday as a reminder to perform a quick DIY tire check. If your birthday is on the 18th, then every month on the 18th, give your tires a quick check. Just remember the Rubber Manufacturers Association's mnemonic: "Be tire smart — play your PART: Pressure, Alignment, Rotation, Tread":

  • Pressure: Check tire pressure monthly and make sure your psi (pounds per square inch) matches manufacturer-recommended levels (psi can be found in your owner's manual or inside the driver's side door jamb of your vehicle).
  • Alignment: Have your alignment checked by a tire dealer according to your owner's manual recommendations or if your car seems to be "pulling" in one direction.
  • Rotation: Have your tires rotated according to your owner's manual recommendations or if you notice uneven tire wear.
  • Tread: Check your tires monthly to make sure they have enough tread. The penny test makes it a breeze.

Quick Tip

Can't decide between the smooth, quiet ride of a touring tire or the road-gripping traction of a performance tire? Try a tire like Bridgestone Potenza RE97AS for both comfort and performance.

More safe driving tips

10 Ways to avoid an accident
The how and why of rollovers
How to recover from a skid

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