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Legislators seek bill requiring tire pressure checks

CARSON CITY — State legislators agreed Tuesday to draw up a bill to require auto repair shops, smog stations and oil change businesses to check the air pressure in their customers’ tires.

“It’s good for safety, and it saves gas and reduces air pollution,” said Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas.

Schneider’s Subcommittee on the Production and Use of Energy voted to draft a bill containing the air pressure check requirement for consideration at the 2011 legislative session. Debates will be held at that time.

Panel members rejected proposals that would require the state and local governments, including police, to start buying electric or hybrid cars in two years.

They also opposed a proposal that would require the Public Utilities Commission to set up demonstration stations for recharging electric cars and giving $1,500 rebates to electric car buyers.

Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, voted against the tire pressure requirement.

Other legislators voted for the bill but questioned why they need to legislate common sense.

“They should do it,” Gansert said about drivers checking their air pressure periodically. “But I don’t know if we should mandate you go check your air pressure. This is about personal responsibility.”

“People never think of it,” responded Schneider, noting that people with low tire pressure sometimes are involved in accidents that kill innocent people in other vehicles.

“We move from winter to snow and the tire pressure goes up and down. The service station people can come in (at the 2011 session) and say what it would cost and if it is a burden,” he said.

Oil change businesses sometimes check air pressure as part of their service, Schneider said, but it is not a practice with all repair and smog shops.

He cited statistics on underinflated tires causing accidents and contributing to accidents in which people are killed.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about one-fourth of cars and one-third of trucks had one or more tires underinflated by 8 pounds per square inch or more in 2007.

Under normal driving conditions, a vehicle loses 1 to 2 pounds of pressure per month.

Underinflated tires reduce a driver’s ability to control a vehicle against skidding, blowouts and other tire failures. In 1999, the office said underinflated tires contributed to 247 fatalities and accidents in which 23,100 people were injured.

A big fan of keeping proper air pressure in tires is President Barack Obama. During his campaign in 2008, Obama said if motorists kept their tires properly inflated, the United States could save as much gasoline as the additional offshore oil drilling that was being proposed at the time.

Republicans ridiculed him, but the U.S. Department of Transportation said 5 million gallons of fuel could be saved every day if tires were properly inflated.

Checking tire pressure, however, is no longer free at most service stations. That air now costs about 50 cents.

In another matter Tuesday, legislators rejected Schneider’s request for a bill to start state and local government fleets, including police cars, switching to electric or hybrid vehicles in two years.

Schneider said the Nissan Leaf will get 100 miles without a recharge, while the Chevrolet Volt gets 40 miles and has a small engine to recharge the battery. He said his wife bought a Toyota Prius and gets 40 miles per gallon.

“These things are coming,” Schneider said. “We don’t need to expose our children to more air pollution.”

But Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said her constituents are tired of subsidizing anything.

“I can’t afford a $40,000 Prius,” Kirkpatrick said. “We can’t subsidize anymore.”

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said, “I don’t see the need to do this (require electric cars) until it becomes efficient for us to do so. These vehicles need a year or two to get the bugs worked out. We are moving in the right direction, but it is a little early.”

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said electric cars don’t use gasoline and Nevada highways are built by gasoline taxes.

“We would be (giving incentives) to people to use less gas, which is good; but as more and more people move to electric cars, we have to find a way to fund roads,” Conklin said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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