Government Requires Tire Monitors for all 2008 Cars

A new regulation will require tire pressure monitors installed on all cars sold in the U.S. beginning with the 2008 model year.

U.S. orders new safety equipment in cars (AP)

New passenger cars must have tire pressure monitoring systems in place by the 2008 model year, the U.S. government announced Thursday. The regulation, which has its roots in the Firestone tire recall of 2000, will require auto makers to attach tiny sensors to each wheel that will signal if a tire falls 25 per cent below the recommended inflation pressure. If any one of the four tires is underinflated, the sensors set off a dashboard warning light.

Auto makers will begin implementing the technology in September. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the upgrade will cost manufacturers between $48.44 and $69.89 a vehicle. The government said underinflated tires hurt a vehicle’s fuel economy and can increase stopping distances, increase likelihood of tire failure and lead to skidding on wet surfaces.

All new four-wheel vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds (4,540 kilograms) or less will be required to be equipped with the systems by the 2008 model year. The regulation affects passenger cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans. NHTSA estimates that 120 lives a year will be saved when all new vehicles are equipped with the systems.

While my instincts are libertarian, I’m not intrinsically opposed to governmental safety regulations such as these. However, one wonders how many governmentally mandated add-ons it takes to increase the price of a car beyond the marginal safety utility. Air bags, tire sensors, upgraded bumpers, crumple zones, reinforcement bars, safety glass, and so forth are all useful equipment which almost certainly save lives. At the same time, incremental increases in the price of new cars presumably cause people at the margins to not buy new cars, either diverting them to used cars without these expensive features or to repair their existing vehicles. How many people will forgo cars safer than their current cars so that others can have the marginal safety increase that tire sensors will bring?

Or, to put the question another way: Let’s presume this regulation will indeed save 120 lives a year. How many will it cost? The answer, presumably, is not “zero.”

FILED UNDER: Congress, Health
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bachbone says:

    All it takes to maintain tire pressure is a $.49 air guage and 5 minutes of your time twice a month. Government regulations have still not targeted the one thing that causes most accidents: the nut holding the steering wheel.

  2. ScottJ says:

    I guess this is better than legislating that you must check your tire pressure twice a month or face civil charges ( or criminal charges if you have an accident related to your tires). We should use the technology where it fits.

    My real concern is that this is the type of precedent that will allow mandatory gps type tracking of specific vehicles and subsequent taxation on mileage or other big brother style intrusions into our lives.

  3. Reading the article, I note that the “consumer” groups filed the lawsuit not to add this feature, but to prevent the NHTSA from allowing the practically free (if you have ABS or traction control) method based on tire rotation speed. My 1997 Pontiac (certainly not an exotic) had the latter feature.

    So, it’s not “will the extra $100 save more lives than not having this feature costs?” but “will the extra $100 save more lives than a system which is nearly as good but costs essentially zero in any modern car.”

    I really think they are more interested in making cars as expensive as possible to keep the “little people” from having them, so the roads are clear for their Volvos and Prii.