RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Shoppers look at expiration dates on things like food and medicine, but did you know every tire on your vehicle also can expire? Ignoring it could have dangerous and even deadly consequences.
We've all seen them on the side of the road, swerved to miss the debris and maybe even wondered what we'd do in the moments after one of the tires on our car blows.
Teresa Taylor no longer has to wonder.
“It was like a POW! A POP," she said.
In August of 2007, Taylor was driving on the interstate in her SUV when the tread separated from her driver's side rear tire, according to a lawsuit she filed.
Skidding out of control, the vehicle rolled over. Taylor's 15-year-old cousin, Tevin Pettis, was inside the car with her at the time.
“They told me he had passed away," Taylor said.
Tevin Pettis was killed. Teresa Taylor was left with questions.
"I didn't run over anything,” she said. “I didn't hit anybody, but I just did not know what caused the accident."
Taylor hired attorneys, who investigated the accident. They determined she bought that tire new, unused, one year before the accident at a Sears Auto Center, and then had it inspected by Firestone shortly before the car wrecked.
Molded on the tire, they found a Department of Transportation code that could lead to the answers Taylor is looking for. That code reveals the tire was manufactured in 2002, meaning, according to attorneys, it sat on a shelf for four years before Taylor purchased it and put it on her car, driving on it the day her cousin died.
Attorney Jeff Rosenblum, who sees these issues often in product liability cases, explains the problem many of us may have never considered.
“The tire needs to be put into use to have elasticity, to continue the strength of the tire to perform the way it was designed to perform," he said.
But he says some retailers are leaving tires on the shelf too long.
A Firestone spokesperson said, "We believe strongly that Firestone acted totally appropriately in this case, and we believe that this case is without merit."
Most safety experts we talked to recommend six years as the age limit for tires.
You can easily figure out if you're "driving on danger." The number that revealed Taylor's issue is on your tire walls. The last four digits are most important. They stand for the week of the year and year the tire was made.
Right now according to our experts, the last two digits you need to watch out for are 08, meaning a tire manufactured in 2008 is near its expiration date.
Tires sitting on the shelf being sold as new and never used, though, could have been manufactured well before that. The family of Tevin Pettis is still trying to figure out that dilemma.
“If they've got it coded for a specific year that it was manufactured, then it's really not new, even though it hasn't been driven,” Taylor added.