Michelin and the FIA Get All 50 States to Standardize Tire Safety Advice in State Drivers’ Manuals, which is No Easy Task

From Car & Driver’s blog, excellent news that “…Michelin and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile [FIA] (Foundation?) have secured commitments from all 50 U.S. states to include consistent tire-maintenance and safety information in their driver education programs.”

There are 51 booklets that can be thought of as state drivers’ manuals in the USA because, apart from the 50 actual states, DC has one, too.  And back in 2006 — dare I say “bravely!” — I read them all and then wrote a research paper on my findings.  It was published by the Society of Automotive Engineers [SAE] at their World Congress, in Detroit, in 2oo7.  (For the sake of perspective, I will add that to my great pleasure, my presentation of the paper to a technically very adept audience won me an SAE award for being judged to be in the top five percent of the hundreds of papers presented by their authors at the multi-day event.)

Photo of a Michelin tire
A Michelin Energy MXV4 S8 tire with very shallow tread depth (photo taken in a parking lot).  The image also clearly shows the manufacturing date of this tire:  The 0710 visible bottom left is the standard U.S. display of year (07) and week (10) that this particular batch of tires was made, and this is important to know so that you never unwittingly buy tires that are already too old.

Prior to writing the paper, I had written to the various states, in the hope of starting a discussion about the worrying standards and frankly often dangerous ‘advice’, but I got absolutely zero replies, despite my very polite wording.  As a result, and in the hope of getting the matter some desperately-needed publicity, I felt obliged to give the paper the pugnacious title of “State Drivers’ Manuals Can Kill Your Kids!”  From this experience, I am extremely well aware that not only are there massive variations in the quality and safety-value of the information in these booklets, from state to state, but also that the advice and recommended techniques from one to another can be mutually contradictory.

The paper — State Drivers’ Manuals Can Kill Your Kids! — is available from the SAE, who charge a modest fee for it.  Kindly be aware that they keep the entire fee, I do not make a single cent from it, so these mentions of the paper are posted here solely and specifically to highlight the inadequate and often dangerously bad advice that is still in some states’ official documents.  Fortunately and gratifyingly, some states have started using my recommendations in new versions of their manuals since the paper was published.

This move by Michelin (who make excellent tyres, by the way) and the FIA, is a very welcome, unifying influence on just one of the many topics in the various manuals but frankly it is long overdue that best-practice safety advice should be standardized throughout all of the states.  In what other aspect of life in the USA would the public and – most importantly – the politicians so blindly tolerate more than 40,000 Americans being unnecessarily slaughtered every year?

FIA, Motorsports’ Governing Body, Lets Down Safety Standards

July 9, 2017

In Formula 1, by far the world’s most prestigious motorsport, the recent Azerbaijan Grand Prix was marred by an overt display of road rage by four-times World Champion Sebastian Vettel who, in front of millions of spectators around the world, deliberately rammed an opponent’s car, wheel-to-wheel while all of the cars were driving slowly in accordance with — ironically — a temporary, safety speed limit.

Photo of the FIA logo

Having untruthfully claimed that three-times World Champion Louis Hamilton had “brake checked” him  and “caused” him to collide with the rear of Hamilton’s car, Vettel moved up alongside Hamilton and flagrantly turned into him so that Vettel’s front right wheel struck Hamilton’s front left wheel.  In reality, engineering  telematics transmitted by all F1 cars showed beyond any argument that Hamilton had neither braked nor even slowed down, so Vettel’s claim was entirely untrue.

Anyone wishing to view the incident on video can do so on YouTube at the following link, but for copyright purposes I am not prepared to post the actual clip here.   https://youtu.be/Cx4AartWhg4

The spanner in these works, however, lies in the fact that the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (i.e. International Automobile Federation, or FIA) is a huge supporter of global road safety and has established the FIA Foundation for this very purpose.

So, around the world, young motor racing fans, including countless children and young teens, saw one of their sporting idols have what can only be described as an infantile fit of road rage and commit a safety travesty by ramming somebody else’s car, yet Vettel got away with just a ten-second pit lane penalty instead of a much more appropriate ban from one or more races.

The thing is that the FIA had the power to override the race stewards’ decision regarding the punishment even after the event, and impose a ban, but undoubtedly politics — a regular anti-Christ in the sadly lethal world of road safety — won the day because the mega-money businessmen behind motor racing didn’t want to ‘spoil’ the season’s championship battle between who else but Vettel and Hamilton.

I hope and suspect that the team at the FIA Foundation were suitably embarrassed by this ludicrous inaction by their parent body in the face of such an outrageously bad example to all young drivers and future drivers around the world….. Sure! Go ahead!  If you don’t like someone else on the road, just ram them!

Hang your heads, FIA; hang your heads.  This wasn’t worthy of you.

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor — Advanced Drivers of North America