The safety of automobiles has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Of course, we are still a long way from having a car that is safe 100 percent of the time, but overall, motor vehicles are much better able to protect us in the event of a car accident now than ever before. While much of the improved technology is in the form of things we don’t need to think about — air bags that deploy in the event of an accident, for example — there are still issues that come up with our attention in order for them to work. Some of these might help to prevent a car accident in the first place.

One of these is low tire pressure. It’s true that having tires that aren’t inflated to the proper levels can cause poor fuel economy. However, having underinflated tires can also be dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 200,000 accidents every year are attributed to low tire pressure. That accounts for about 33,000 injuries as well as about 660 deaths annually.

To help drivers remember that this is important, a lot of cars have a warning light that indicates low tire pressure. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t realize what it is; according to an industry study, more than a third of drivers don’t recognize the warning light. This is important, because the light is designed to display when tires are about 25 percent deflated, and they may not appear to be low until they are have much less air than that. The best way to avoid low tire pressure — and to hopefully stay out of accidents — is to manually check your tire pressure frequently. And, if a strange light illuminates on your instrument panel, be sure to figure out what it’s telling you.

Source: The Car Connection, “Half Of U.S. Drivers Don’t Recognize Tire-Pressure Warning Light,” Jeffrey N. Ross, April 11, 2014