Summer is just around the corner and, for millions of Americans, that means it’s time to go camping. While the traditional image of a camping trip involves a tent pitched under a starry sky, these days more and more people are opting for recreational vehicles. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, 8.9 million households in the United States own RVs. For many, RV travel is considered safe. However, recent reports show that a potentially deadly defect could be putting a lot of RV owners at risk.
It’s safe to assume many people don’t pay too much attention to tire brands. However, if you were playing a game like Family Feud, and you were asked to name a tire brand, you’d likely guess Goodyear due to their successful branding efforts for decades, including the familiar blimp that floats across the sky during sporting events every year. You may be surprised to learn this brand is the third largest tire manufacturer in the world, behind Michelin and Bridgestone. You may also be surprised to learn that Goodyear’s actions may have led to several accidental deaths.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims it has received allegations that defective Goodyear motorhome tires caused crashes that killed or injured 95 people over a decade. The allegations were revealed in an information-seeking letter sent to Goodyear by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year, the agency began investigating whether Goodyear’s G159 tires are unsafe. The probe began after a judge ordered the release of Goodyear data that had been sealed under court orders and settlement agreements. Lawsuits and safety advocates allege the tires were designed for delivery trucks and not for recreational vehicles that travel at highway speeds. The NHTSA states that the investigation covers about 40,000 tires made from 1996 to 2003.
Several news outlets are now sharing this news. However, one automotive website has been sharing information about the possibly defective tire for months. Jalopnik is a non-traditional online automotive news and culture journal. According to the website, there have been more than 40 lawsuits filed against the tire manufacturer as a result of the defective tire. They go on to state that Goodyear has admitted in court to receiving over 98 death or injury claims due to the G159 tire.
Jalopnik journalists bring up a good question in their article: why wasn’t an investigation launched sooner? They claim that nearly every lawsuit involved a settlement with plaintiffs which prevented the sharing of documents and findings with other plaintiffs, citing an excerpt from the NHTSA which states:
“…the data produced in the litigation was sealed under protective orders and confidential settlement agreements, precluding claimants from submitting evidence to the NHTSA.”
Jalopnik also found that Goodyear believed the tires to be safe for RV use, stating they (Goodyear) believed the tread separation was the result of user error. Goodyear believed it could be the result of underinflating the tire and/or overloading the vehicle.
The NHTSA investigation is ongoing.
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