Tire shelf life blamed for number of central Florida crashes

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

Orlando attorney Rich Newsome’s evidence warehouse is filled with wrecked cars. Their drivers and passengers were killed or left suffering catastrophic injuries.

“The link in a lot of these cases is the age of the tire. Most people don’t know it, but tires have a shelf life,” Newsome told WFTV’s Vanessa Welch.

Wrecks caused by tire separations have become a growing -- and, in some cases, fatal -- problem on highways across central Florida and the entire state.

Proposed Tire Legislation | Attorney's Blog

Terry Colston's tire separated on Interstate 4 in Polk County last year, killing him and his 11-year-old son.

"My husband lost control of the vehicle," said Liz Colston. "It caused it to flip and roll three times."

The separated tire was more than six years old.

"I had absolutely no knowledge that there was an age limit for tires," Liz Colston said.

WFTV covered at least five tire separation cases on central Florida highways last summer. Research shows tires age faster in warmer climates.

Welch discovered how one 8-year-old tire separated just two weeks after a woman bought it.

The woman lost control of her car and was hit and killed by a semi-truck driver. All that's left of her vehicle is a mangled pile of steel, plastic and rubber.

Because tire separations have become a common problem in Florida, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, is sponsoring new legislation aimed at better informing used -tire consumers.

"You can't go to the 7-Eleven and buy milk without seeing an expiration date, yet you can buy a tire that could be in any shape, any condition, without at least a heads up," Brodeur said.

A nine-digit number on the side of a tire tells when it was made.

Brodeur's bill would take it a step further and require retail tire dealers to disclose when a tire was made and the fact that most car makers recommend replacing tires after six years.

Brodeur explained it's "simply one more warning for the consumer."

But Vince Contestable, whose Empire Tires in Orlando sells used tires, insists the legislation would discourage people from buying his tires.

None of his tires were involved in any of the accidents WFTV covered, but he still thinks the legislation is bad for his industry.

"I don't think the state should pass a law to hurt small businesses," said Contestable, adding that most tires he sells are less than five years old.

"Does the state really need to tell people out there how old your tire is?" he asked.

Newsome argues it does.

"Unless something is done to inform consumers about the dangers of old tires, then these types of accidents are going to continue to happen," Newsome said.

Liz Colston agrees.

"This should be in place already," Colston said. "I feel firmly and strongly that it would have made a difference in our case."

To find the age code on tires, look for the DOT number on the side wall. The last four digits show the week and year it was made.