Flat tires, dead batteries, key problems lead the reasons for call outs.
AAA says that in 2015, it responded to more breakdowns or other issues than ever before. AAA rescued 32 million American motorists last year, the group said, with the majority of those calls for help – 8.3 million – in the summer.
Modern vehicles were more likely to have issues with keys or drivers being locked out, and flat tires, AAA said. The group attributed that to the fact that many cars made within the last five years have “smart” keys instead of traditional ones, and that fewer and fewer new cars come with spare tires. And, despite distance-to-empty readouts on most modern cars, AAA said plenty of drivers still ran out of gas.
“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,” AAA managing director of Automotive Solutions Cliff Ruud said in a statement.
Moreover, because modern vehicles are harder for AAA to diagnose are repair at the side of the road, one-fifth of all service calls for 2012-2016 model-year cars required towing the car to a dealership. Plus, despite the proliferation of smart keys, AAA had to help 4 million drivers who were locked out of their car.
Gallery: AAA responded to a record 32 million breakdowns in 2015
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 in 2015, with more battery, flat tire and key problems than ever before, a new study shows. 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.
“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, 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. Additionally, 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. Finally, 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.
Other key findings from an analysis of AAA’s 2015 roadside assistance data include:
- Battery failures, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle remain the top roadside assistance requests.
- Vehicles fewer than five years old have a higher proportion of tire, key and fuel-related issues than older vehicles. Due in part to complex, electronic vehicle designs, one-in-five service calls for a newer vehicle required a tow to a repair facility.
- Vehicles between 6 and 10 years old have the highest proportion of battery-related issues, as most batteries have a three- to five-year life.
- Roadside assistance calls peak in the summer (8.3 million) followed by winter (8.1 million), fall (7.8 million) and spring (7.7 million).
- Drivers are most likely to request roadside assistance on Mondays and least likely to request assistance on Sundays.
- Drivers in the West experienced the most breakdowns, followed by the South, the Northeast and the Midwest.
- Despite advances in key technology, AAA came to the rescue of more than four million drivers locked out of their vehicles.