MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Every day, millions of drivers unknowingly put themselves and others at risk when they get behind the wheel of a car.
The problem is balding tires which is a risk you might not think about. But new technology can make sure you know when it’s time for worn tires to be changed.
Like many people, Petya Papazova never gave the tires on her car a second thought.
“The truth is I never changed the tires for four years,” she said.
But that all changed when she nearly slammed into the back of a van.
“There was probably about a distance of 50 uh, feet, um, and I just could not stop the car,” Papazova said.
Her mechanic found her tires were so worn down, they couldn’t grip the road.
“There was no rule or an indicator to tell me that they were due for a change,” she said.
In actuality, all tires in the U.S. are required to have something called a “tread wear indicator,” which tells car owners when a tire needs to be replaced.
But Papazova is hardly the only driver unaware of the indicator.
“About two-thirds of the people don’t even know that those are in there,” said Nick Hodel of Tire Performance Indicators.
That is leading to an increase in accidents, according to experts.
“We did a study that found about 13 percent of vehicles on the road had at least one bald tire,” said Dan Zielinski of the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
But now, new technology is being developed to make it really clear when it is time for a change.
First, there are tires made of special rubber that changes color when they are worn down.
“When your tire wears out, you see this vibrant color — red or orange, or some other color,” Zielinski said.
There is also a new indicator stud that will send you a signal when a tire is going bald.
“Green, you’re good. When you see yellow, it’s caution; it’s time to think about starting to replace those tires. And if you see red, you should be replacing the tires,” Hodel said.
But one of the best ways to test a tire tread is with a penny. Insert the edge of the penny into the tire tread, and if the top of President Abraham Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, that means you still have an acceptable amount of tread.
“A new tire will stop at 70 mph in about 190 feet,” Hodel said. “A worn out tire would stop at about 379 feet, which can mean the difference between life and death.”
Mechanics recommend having your tires checked and rotated every 7,000 miles or so to help prevent the threading from wearing unevenly.