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Worn tires increase risk of traffic crash in wet weather

When tires become worn, they begin to lose traction, particularly in wet weather. Illinois drivers might not realize that this happens even when their tires are at half-tread. This loss of traction increases the risk of traffic accidents.

Worn tires do not have grooves deep enough to allow water to pass through and out from under them. The trapped water underneath is what causes hydroplaning. New tires have 10/32 of an inch of tread, and they are considered bald with 2/32 of an inch left. Manufacturers place horizontal bars at the base of the tread. When the bars are flush with the rest of the tread, the tire is bald. At this point, the tires fail state safety inspections. Consumer Reports recommends replacing tires when 4/32 of an inch remains.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, almost half of the 11,500 vehicles that the agency checked had at least one half-tread tire. The agency also found at least one bald tire on 10 percent of the vehicles.

Testing full-tread and half-tread tires in dry, snowy and wet conditions, Consumer Reports found that hydroplaning starts at speeds as slow as 40 mph with half-tread tires. This is an 8 percent decline in hydroplaning resistance than full-tread tires. It also took these tires 3 to 6 extra feet to bring the vehicle to a stop in wet weather. In the snow, half-tread tires on a vehicle accelerating to 20 mph took an average 12 feet longer, resulting in almost 15 percent less traction overall. However, the half-tread tires did have more grip on dry roads.

If someone is injured in an auto accident in wet or snowy weather, and it is deemed that worn tires were part of the cause, the driver or owner of the vehicle could be held responsible. The injured victim may receive compensation if they file a successful personal injury case.

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