Federal Regulators Deflated the Numbers on Tire-Related Crash Deaths, Then Took Victory Lap

Without saying why, federal traffic safety officials have quietly altered crash data, revealing that more than three times as many people die in wrecks linked to tire failures than previously acknowledged.

For several years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that the annual death toll from tire-related crashes was 200. Then last year NHTSA abruptly ramped up the estimate, stating on its website that 719 people had died in 2015 in such crashes.

The change went virtually unnoticed and even now might pass for a minor record-keeping error. The reason it matters is that the agency used the unrealistically low estimate to justify a decision not to seek stronger tire safety standards.