ABC Local Reporters Find Aged Tires a Nationwide Hazard

From San Francisco, Calif. to Orlando, Fla. our ABC affiliates have documented fatal traffic accidents attributed to aged tires and have gone undercover to discover aged tires being sold as new by retailers. Safety experts say that as tires age, they deteriorate from within, leading to a possible catastrophic tire tread separation.

As part of a joint investigation with "20/20," local ABC News reporters found tragic cases of motorists caught up in vehicle accidents attributed to aged tires.

In San Francisco, KGO-TV reporter Michael Finney detailed the case of Bobby Crane of Danville, Calif., who died when the right rear tire of his Ford Bronco blew out and the vehicle overturned on the highway. The tire was later found to be 14 years old. "It looked like it was in great condition. It had lots of tread," said Bobby's father Jack Crane. [Read KGO-TV's full report.]

In Orlando, Vanessa Welch of WFTV-TV reported on 20-year-old Nicalos Rowan who died after the tread separated from the tire on his SUV, causing the vehicle to flip over. The tire that failed was 11 years old. "It was brand new. It looked brand new when I put it on the truck," said Rowan's mother Linda. [Read WFTV-TV's full report.]

In San Diego, Calif., KGTV-TV's Lauren Reynolds reported on the case of U.S. border patrol agent David Webb, who was killed when a tire on his patrol car came apart, causing the vehicle to flip. The tire was discovered to be 9 years old, and Webb's family attributes the tire failure to its age. "He's a trained law enforcement driver. You'd think he'd be among the best of the best, and even he couldn't control the situation," said John Gomez, an attorney for the Webb family. [Read KGTV-TV's full report.]

Local reporters also were able to find aged tires sold as new by some of the country's largest tire retailers. KGO found a tire made in 1999 and two from 2002 being sold as new by Goodyear, the seventh largest tire retailer in the U.S. In Indianapolis, Ind., affiliate WRTV-TV found a tire made in 2001 and one from 1999 sold at Wal-Mart, the country's third largest tire seller. WFTV-TV also found two aged tires dating back to 1999 and 2000 for sale at a Wal-Mart store.

Although safety groups and many car companies have recommended a six-year age limit on tires, Goodyear and Wal-Mart say there is no scientific evidence that supports a defined shelf life for a tire, a position shared by the tire manufacturing industry trade group. The companies also say that age is not the key factor in tire safety, and that consumers should pay attention to other maintenance issues.

More ABC News affiliate reports on aged tires:

Read Indianapolis-based WRTV-TV's full report.

Check out Boston-based WCVB's full report.

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.