AAA Rescued Record 32 Million Drivers in 2015; Blames New Technology for Breakdowns

Alex Grubbs | July 22, 2016 | 11:39am EDT
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(Wikimedia Commons)


( – Despite technological advances in newer vehicles, the American Automobile Association (AAA) rescued a record 32 million drivers nationwide in 2015, including 900,000 in the Washington, D.C. area alone, AAA announced Wednesday.

“Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” said Cliff Ruud, managing director of AAA’s Automotive Solutions.

“Sleek, low-profile tires are highly susceptible to damage, electronic keyless ignitions can zap battery life, and despite advanced warning systems, more than half a million drivers ran out of gas last year," Rudd explained.

AAA found that new high-tech systems such as keyless ignitions drain batteries - one of the leading reasons for roadside assistance in 2015 - and can lock the driver out of the vehicle while the engine is running.

In addition, many vehicles’ lack of a spare tire has also increased the need for rescues. To increase gas mileage, spare tires have been replaced with tire inflator kits.

In an earlier finding, AAA found that just 5 percent of cars were equipped with tire inflator kits in 2006. By 2015, 33 percent of cars on the road had tire inflator kits instead of spare tires.

However, AAA noted that tire inflator kits “are not a substitute for a spare tire.”

“Vehicles fewer than five years old in particular experienced a higher proportion of tire and key-related issues than older vehicles, suggesting that the trend toward eliminating the spare tire and moving to electronic keyless ignitions may have unintended consequences,” an AAA news release warned last November.

“Flat tires are not a disappearing problem, but spare tires are,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Automakers are facing increasingly-stringent fuel economy standards and the spare tire has become a casualty in an effort to reduce weight and boost miles-per-gallon.”

Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau stated that summer months have the highest traffic fatality rates in comparison to the rest of the year.

“For a variety of reasons, June, July and August have among the highest fatality rates of any month – notably, longer days allowing more traffic, more people driving long distances for vacations, or using rental cars to drive in relatively new surroundings,” he said.

AAA said that calls for roadside assistance also peak in the summer.

“It is a harsh fact of life, but more batteries fail in July than in January. That’s because the summer heat can kill a car battery 33 percent faster than winter cold,” said John Townsend, manager of public and government affairs at AAA’s Mid-Atlantic-Washington office.

“Most drivers fail to realize that vehicle maintenance is a year-round focus. Your owner’s manual is your Bible and it can prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road.”

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