AAA ‘flat’ out busy responding to tire-related emergency roadside calls

The Southern Maryland Chronicle

As Maryland Legislators Consider Spare Tire Disclosure Legislation, 50% Of All Tire-Related Tows In 2021 Had No Suitable Spare

With the majority of winter still ahead, and an increasing number of calls coming in, AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging motorists to pay special attention to the two tire issues most likely to result in the need for emergency roadside service – improper inflation and tread depth.

“In just the first few weeks of the year we have seen tire-related calls that amount to more than 25% of the total volume for all of last winter – and we still have almost two months to go,” says Edward Hickey, Manager for AAA Club Fleet Operations in Baltimore. “Drivers must make sure their tires are properly inflated and that they have sufficient tread to grip wet or snow-covered roads.”

In addition to calling attention to tire maintenance, AAA is also advising motorists to ensure they have a spare tire.“More and more motorists calling AAA for roadside assistance in recent years for tire-related issues are discovering that – to their surprise – they don’t have a spare tire in their vehicles,” says Ragina C. Ali, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

As automakers strive to reduce weight and improve fuel economy, they continue to eliminate spare tires from new vehicles. According to AAA, nearly one-third (28 percent) of 2017 model year vehicles do not come with a spare tire as standard equipment, creating an unnecessary hassle and expense for drivers.

In 2021, AAA Mid-Atlantic came to the rescue of nearly 89,000 members faced with a tire-related issue in Maryland. Nearly 20,000 of those calls required a tow – more than half because there was no usable spare.

Today, in Maryland, lawmakers will be considering SB 149 – Rental Vehicle Agreements – Disclosures – Spare Tires in the Senate Finance Committee, which AAA Mid-Atlantic supports. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Cheryl C. KaganDistrict 17, introduced the legislation, which requires car rental companies to disclose whether a rental vehicle is equipped with a spare tire in the rental agreement.“Drivers should not be stranded on the side of the road with no spare tire,” states Senator Kagan. “SB149 will provide transparency to consumers before getting behind the wheel.”

Tires that have not been properly inflated to adjust for colder temperatures are more likely to result in a flat or blowout and tires with a worn tread are more likely to result in a crash. The good news, though, is that both of these tire troubles are easy to resolve.

AAA offers these precautionary tips to prevent drivers from being stranded in the event of a flat tire:

Check Tire Pressure

Keeping your vehicle’s tires properly inflated to the automaker’s recommended pressures is a critical element of tire maintenance. Tires that contain the specified amount of air pressure last longer and contribute to vehicle safety.

  • Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare.
  • As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb(Do not use the pressure molded into the tire sidewall).

Check Tire Tread

Adequate tread depth is necessary for a tire to maintain traction on slippery roads. You can measure tread depth with an inexpensive gauge available at any auto parts store or… you can use the traditional quarter test demonstrated in the photo.

Insert a quarter into a tread groove with the top of Washington’s head facing down. If the top of his head is not visible, your tires are fine for continued use. If you can see above the top of Washington’s head, it is time to start shopping for new tires. Take multiple measurements across the tread to help ensure accurate results.

“According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, winter storms, bad weatherandsloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter,” says Ali.AAA urges drivers to check tread depth, replace tires proactively, and increase following distances significantly when roadways are wet or snow-covered.