AAA: Motorists having car troubles

Despite advances in vehicle technology, including maintenance reminders and other dashboard alerts designed to mitigate roadside trouble, AAA rescued a record-breaking 32 million drivers across the United States in 2015, with more battery, flat tire and key problems than ever before, a new study shows.

“AAA Oklahoma responded to more than 171,580 calls for help from members stranded alongside roadways in 2015 statewide,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “The need for a tow was the number one reason members called us, followed by keys locked in the vehicle, flat tires and battery jumps. Calls from members with 2002 to 2008 model year vehicles accounted for 46 percent of all our calls.”

Vehicles less than five years old, however, 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.

“Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Solutions. “Sleek, low profile tires are highly susceptible to damage. Plus, electronic keyless ignitions can zap battery life and despite advanced warning systems, more than half a million drivers ran out of gas last year.”

Owners of new vehicles may be unaware that some new vehicle designs and features may leave them vulnerable at the roadside. To reduce vehicle weight and boost fuel economy, spare tires are being eliminated from new vehicles at alarming rates, and are being replaced with tire inflator kits that can only remedy some flat tire situations.

New keyless ignition systems can drain the battery life when keys are stored too close to the vehicle and can lock a driver out of the vehicle while the engine is still running. In addition, despite nearly all new vehicles being equipped with low fuel warning alerts and range estimations, a higher proportion of drivers are using these systems to push the limits between fuel-ups.