Treading on Danger?
For years, motorists found themselves in deadly crashes when the tread on one of their Firestone ATX tires peeled off at high speed. Acting on viewer complaints and a tip from a local attorney in late November 1999, KHOU’s Investigative Unit led by David Raziq, reporter Anna Werner, and editor/photographer Chris Henao began researching accidents connected with Firestone’s ATX and ATXII tires, which were original manufacturer’s equipment on Ford Explorer Sports Utility Vehicles. Beginning with local crashes and expanding to accidents nationwide, Raziq, Werner, and Henao accumulated boxes of court cases and accident reports and discovered over 30 deaths connected with the problem. The team also consulted tire-engineering experts and obtained sealed court documents, which confirmed crashes had been occurring because of tread separation on Firestone tires. After the Investigative Unit presented this evidence to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the station ran an extensive initial report on the hidden danger in early February and then continued throughout the year with follow-up reports, including coverage of recalls in foreign countries. KHOU-TV’s reports also led to national media coverage of the problem, and as a consequence of KHOU-TV’s initial investigation, NHTSA officials collected numerous accident complaints and launched a federal investigation into the ATX, ATXII, and Wilderness AT tires. A congressional investigation followed and led to passage of the TREAD (Transportation, Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation) Act of 2000. For its groundbreaking, comprehensive reports that saved lives and had a decided impact upon national and international policy, a Peabody goes to KHOU-TV for Treading on Danger?