The One-Second Tire Test That Could Save Your Life

As it turns out, cell phones may not be the biggest deterrent to safe driving.

When you hear about staying safe behind the wheel, it is more likely to be a message regarding distracted driving than anything to do with tires. Of course, texting while driving, applying makeup on your way to work, or reaching into the backseat for your toddler’s lost toy while on the go is dangerous and should be avoided. But raw data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers an intriguing comparison.

This Tire Test Could Save Your Life

Of the more than 3,200 Americans who lost their lives due to distracted driving in 2017, cell phone distractions accounted for 457. The NHTSA reported a lot more tire-related deaths — 738. That’s right, tires are potentially more dangerous the cellphones. Tires are the most important safety feature of your car, and testing them before hitting the road absolutely cannot wait.

Air Pressure Inside and the Tread on the Outside

During National Teen Driver Safety Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a whopping 300,000 accidents involving teenagers each year landed teens in emergency rooms. Eliminating distracted driving is one way to keep teens safe on the road. Another is ensuring tires are safe. Thankfully, doing so is quick, easy and doesn’t cost a penny. Although for the best tire tread test, you will actually need a penny! Check out the tires auto experts put on their own cars.

What Is the Penny Tread Test?

Help prevent tire-related accidents by doing a one-second test on the tires. The “Penny Tread Test” is an easy, free test you can do by yourself that will quickly reveal the depth of tire tread, and let you know if it’s time to head to the tire store. Plus, these car hacks will instantly improve your driving experience.

How Often Should You Do the Penny Tread Test?

It is recommended that you check the tread on your tires monthly. Thankfully, because the Penny Tread Test is self-administered and doesn’t cost anything, there is no excuse for driving with unsafe tires again.

Let Lincoln’s Head Be Your Guide

Hold the penny between your thumb and pointer finger and angle Abraham Lincoln’s head upside down. Stick the penny into various places in the tread across all your tires. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, that means the tread is worn down to the point that your tires may no longer be safe on the road. If that happens, get your tires checked by an automotive pro and be ready to buy a new set of tires.

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Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is a dad of daughters, herder of house cats, award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who has had the privilege of writing stories for Esquire, PBS, Good Housekeeping, Time Out New York, and Trip Advisor's Family Vacation Critic, among other fine publications.