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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When was the last time you checked your tires?  By one estimate, more than 13 percent of U.S. cars are driving around with at least one bald tire, posing a safety hazard.  As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, new technology can remind you when your tires need to be replaced.

Like many people, Petya Papazova never gave the tires on her car a second thought – until she nearly slammed into the back of a van!  She says, “There was probably about a distance of 50 feet and I just could not stop the car.” Her mechanic found her tires were so worn down that they couldn’t grip the road.  Papazova says, “There was no rule or an indicator to tell me that they were due for a change.”

Actually all tires in the U.S. are required to have something called a “tread wear indicator.”  When the tread wears down to the same level as the indicator, it’s time for new tires.  According to Nick Hodel of Tire Performance Indicators, “About 2/3 of the people don’t even know that those are in there.”

But now there’s new technology to make it really clear when it’s time for a change.  From tires made of a special rubber that change color, “When your tire wears out, you see this vibrant color, red or orange or, or some other color,” says Dan Zielinski of the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

To other tires that offer an indicator stud that sends you a signal. Nick Hodel with Tire Performance Indicators says, “Green you’re good.  When you see yellow, you- 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.”

While it’s ultimately up to tire makers to get them on the road.   Will consumers buy them?  Zielinski says, “You put a strip of colored rubber into the tire that very much broadcasts the condition of your tire, if a consumer or consumers don’t buy that product, it’s not going to help anybody anywhere.”

In fact bald tires can be bad news for everybody.  According to Hodel, “A new tire will stop at 70 mph in about 190 feet, a worn out tire would stop at about 379 feet, which can mean the difference between life and death.”

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