No matter what you drive there is one fact that universally holds true: the only thing keeping you pointing safely in the right direction are those four little patches of rubber where tyre meets tarmac.
In the wake of a worrying new piece of research revealing that potentially millions of UK motorists are delaying critical tyre maintenance, IAM RoadSmart is calling on drivers to get a grip of their tyre safety.
Research commissioned by the UK’s leading independent road safety charity surveyed 1,004 motorists on whether they have delayed making vehicle repairs or improvements amid the cost-of-living crisis. The results are startling.
Of those surveyed, one in 10 stated that they had put off replacing their tyres when the tread is low. Meanwhile, 7% of survey respondents also admitted that they have put off making a tyre change due to a puncture. They might not sound like big numbers but if you extrapolate the results across the almost 36 million people with a full driving licence in the UK, it means up to 4.2 million drivers could be ignoring critical tyre safety maintenance, while up to 2.5 million are potentially putting off fixing a puncture.
All of which begs the question, if your tyres can’t stop you, what will?
According to figures from Tyresafe.org, one in five motorists have never checked their tyres; on average, 159 people are killed or seriously injured due to defective tyres every year; more than 15,000 people have been convicted of tyre-related offences in the last three years alone; and the figure for the amount of fuel wasted due to incorrectly inflated tyres sits somewhere between an eye-watering £600m and £1 billion.
Add in the 2.2 million MOT failures every year and it’s easy to see why estimates suggest there are around 10 million illegal tyres fitted to vehicles in the UK. That means a quarter of all vehicles in the country could have worn, damaged and illegal tyres.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commenting on these figures during TyreSafe’s tyre Safety Month campaign during October, said:
“Our research has laid bare that far too many motorists have decided to put off potentially critical maintenance on their tyres. While we recognise the financial issues many motorists will be facing during such difficult times, taking a chance with your tyres is simply not worth the risk when your own, and other road users’ safety is at risk.”
When finances are tight, trying to save money by ignoring tyre problems is a real false economy. While we all know that tyres aren’t cheap, investing in quality tyres with a high specification, which are appropriate for the season, will make a noticeable difference to your vehicle’s fuel economy. Good tyres that are correctly inflated will actually help you save money in the long run, especially when combined with a more economical driving style.
Rob Marshall, Operations Director at Gateway2Lease, added:
“Protecting yourself and your passengers by ensuring that all the tyres on your vehicles are fit for purpose isn’t only a potential life or death choice, it’s also a sound economic one.
“We would recommend that customers who are considering a lease car from us should take out a maintenance agreement. Yes, it means the monthly cost of your car rental is slightly higher, but it also means you don’t have to budget for additional motoring expenditure, such as a new exhaust, servicing, and - crucially - replacement tyres, which are all included in the monthly payment. It gives you motoring peace of mind - and keeps your vehicle in a safe condition too.”
Essential routine tyre checks
1. Tyre Pressure
Make sure all tyres have the correct pressure. This information can be found in the vehicle handbook, and often on the inside of the fuel filler cap or driver's door sill. Failing that, a quick online search of the vehicle's make, model and year will do the trick.
Under-inflated tyres can provide 50% less contact with the road, resulting in reduced vehicle control. Low pressure also reduces the lifespan of your tyres and uses more fuel.
2. Tyre Tread
Ensure that your tyre’s tread depth is at least 1.6mm for a car (we recommend 3mm for consistent wet weather performance) and this must be across the central ¾ around the whole circumference.
You can perform a quick and easy test of tread depth by placing a 20p coin into the main tread grooves in at least three locations around each tyre. If the outer band of the coin is still visible, the tyres may be under the 1.6mm legal minimum.
3. Tyre Condition
Vehicle tyres will drive over their fair share of glass, stones, and other roadside debris - not to mention the odd kerb - so it's important to check them for any punctures, cracks, or bulges as these are strong indicators of tyre damage.
If there are any irregularities, then the tyre should be checked by a professional and repaired if needed. In some cases, the tyre may still need to be replaced even if the tread depth is still within the legal limit.
4. Vehicle Overloading
Overloading a vehicle can cause excessive heat and wear on the tyres. It is essential to ensure that the vehicle's overall weight does not exceed its Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) Rating - found on the VIN plate or on the inside of a door frame.
The excessive heat and wear on a vehicle's tyres will compromise the handling and could lead to a blowout. Not only putting the driver/rider at risk, but their passengers and other road users in danger too.
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