Recognizing the tire pressure light and… wait… this can’t be right


I saw an article the other day that claimed millennials are more likely to be able to recognize certain emoji symbols than the tire pressure warning light on the dashboard of a car. And I immediately reacted as most of us should… a combination of it not being a big deal mixed with heavy skepticism of why it was even worth investigating.

Now perhaps those thoughts seem cynical. But allow me this addition…

The article I read never said whether or not someone born 40, 50, or even more years ago, could identify the tire pressure light. But it did say that when expanded from “millennials” to “all drivers” the percentage identifying the tire pressure light went down.

So here we are, with an article that is beefing up the argument that (my words): “Hey, more youngsters are recognizing the eye-roll and poop emojis than this warning light on their dashboard.” That’s the big thing. We’re supposed to be drawn into the article by such a claim, and the drive of the article is how shocking it is that millennials know more about emojis than the dashboard of the car they’re driving.

But… hold on… cast off to the side is a note, quickly mentioned and forgotten, that sixty-plus percent of all drivers have no clue what the symbol means. Which, just so happens to be an even high percentage than those the article is chastising.

(Still, it’s floating around in my head. How is this an issue? In fact, I’m not even linking to the article. You want to read it, go search for it. Goodyear was part of the study, so here’s your word string: Goodyear study tire pressure light. Enjoy.)

So, if it isn’t the article itself, there must be a different question that gets me writing. Why is this frustrating me? And the answer is in that part about the tossed to the side stats that drivers overall are even worse than millennials. It’s the lack of material, research, and thought. Ok…

First up… the emoji part.

Let me ask you two questions: How often do you use emojis? How often are the warning lights on your dashboard lit?

I’m willing to bet that virtually all of us see and use emojis—the thumbs up, smiley/laughing face—fairly often. Perhaps several times every day. If nothing else, others use them when sending us texts and posting on Facebook. Normal, regular, average parts of everyday life.

If the tire pressure light on a dashboard is a part of your daily routine, something’s wrong. (And hopefully, something minor.)

Second… the age of the tire pressure light.

Most studies and information linked to tire pressure monitoring go back roughly 40-50 years. That isn’t a perfect timeframe, but it’s a good start. Why? Well, issues with fuel supplies and costs back then led to an increase in studies on the value of properly inflated tires. Plus, there are some documented research projects from roughly those dates into the safety issues created by underinflated tires on braking and handling. So, that’s when we might be best served saying the concept began. However, everyone also agrees that from the seventies into the eighties there wasn’t any reliable system in place for measuring tire pressure beyond getting out of the car and grabbing a handheld gauge. It’s a start, could be earlier, but reliable efforts definitely come later.

As the eighties move into the nineties, built-in systems begin appearing. Most look at Porsche models for the start and… you might believe it… the Corvette for the application. From there, the use expanded in high performance vehicles and more expensive cars. In short, hardly every day availability and mainstream awareness. Which leads us to Congress and federal regulations.

The date arrives in September of 2007. That is when it was required that all vehicles were to be equipped with devices to monitor tire pressure. (Some exceptions and workarounds existed for things like vehicle weight, but it works for this conversation.)

Long story short… for the concept of when tire pressure lights became standard parts of our vehicles, we’re marking the 2008 model year.

Let that sink in.

Tire pressure lights have been standardized parts of a car… routine lights on a dashboard… for slightly more than ten years. I’m guessing there’s a good chance you have a car outside your home right now that was manufactured before that requirement became law. And if you don’t, you’re neighbors probably do.

We’re not discussing rotary telephones. These aren’t television sets that are operated without a remote. These are lights that became standard around the same time the original Iron Man move was released. (September 2007 for the legislation, April 2008 for Iron Man release.)

It’s such a recent arrival that there aren’t many touchstones you can look at… items that are part of our normal lives, should be familiar, and yet might illicit a gasp when saying more people recognize this than that. And when you consider the relative recent arrival of the tire pressure symbol and compare it to the frequency of use, it’s virtually impossible to find something in the everyday world that works for comparison.

Where I’m trying to meander with this is: it’s not a story when combined this way. If you want to say it’s alarming how many people don’t recognize the tire pressure warning symbol, that’s good. But it equates to other dashboard items like the meanings of checking your engine, images of a motor, and other warnings. It might be more interesting to compare against how many people truly understand how to use a car’s climate control knobs for specific results.

But emojis? That’s not a surprise at all. And trying to say millennials don’t get it when those older than millennials are even worse, well, seems to miss the real topics available. Imagine an article that points out how most drivers… not just millennials, but the majority of each and every licensed driver… don’t know what dashboard warnings lights represent. There would be a story.


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