Motorists taking risks with illegal tyres

More than a quarter of all drivers had an illegal tyre on their vehicle, at the time they were replaced, according to results from a survey conducted by TyreSafe in partnership with Highways England. This suggests that nearly 10 million tyres on the roads of England, Scotland and Wales could be dangerous and illegal in 2015. That figure equates to potentially up to one in every four cars and LCVs of the 35.3m vehicles on Britain’s roads having an illegal tyre at some time during the year.

TyreSafe, the UK’s not-for-profit tyre safety organisation, is reiterating its long standing message about simple tyre safety maintenance, and is urging all drivers to check their vehicle’s tyres, making sure they are not adding a substantial and avoidable risk to both themselves and other road users.

The findings come from the most comprehensive survey across Britain’s tyre industry to date, which collated data on the tread depth of tyres when they are replaced. With the legal minimum at 1.6mm, tread depth plays a decisive factor in braking and steering especially in the wet. Research has demonstrated that the braking distance from 50mph to standstill in wet conditions increases by more than the length of a full-sized shipping container (14m) when using worn tyres rather than new ones, which dramatically raises the chances of a collision.

TyreSafe believes the main reason so many millions of motorists are taking risks with their tyre safety lies in a lack of awareness and driver education.

‘TyreSafe does not believe millions of drivers are intentionally putting others at risk – it is more a question of educating motorists to take responsibility for their safety and that of others on the road,’ said Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe chairman. ‘As vehicles have become increasingly reliable, owners have become less used to performing what were once considered basic precautionary checks before setting off on a journey. Tyres too are much more technologically advanced but they do wear and can get damaged so it is down to the driver to regularly check they’re safe.’

‘The evidence provided by the TyreSafe survey underlines what we already feared – awareness among Britain’s motorists’ of the importance of tyre safety urgently needs to improve.’

TyreSafe believes many more millions of motorists are avoiding having illegal tyres on their vehicles more by luck than judgement. In addition to over a quarter of replaced tyres being illegal, more than a third of all tyres surveyed were extremely close to the legal limit with a maximum of 0.4mm of tread depth remaining before becoming illegal – about half the thickness of a bank card. That thickness can only be measured using an accurate tread depth gauge, but previous research shows very few drivers are actually carrying out routine tyre checks of any sort.

TyreSafe advises drivers when it comes to tyre safety checks they should always remember ACT: Air pressure, Condition, Tread.

Air pressure: Is the vehicle’s pressure at the right level for the load? Check with your car’s owners’ manual or even the sticker in the fuel flap may have this.

If you don’t: You could use more fuel than necessary, increase wear and the risk of losing control of the vehicle.

Condition: Drivers are advised to inspect the tyre for signs of irregular wear or damage such as cuts, lumps or bulges.

If you don’t: You risk driving with a defective tyre which can lead to a rapid deflation. 

Tread depth: The law requires a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference of the tyre. A simple way to check is using TyreSafe’s 20p test. Insert the 20p coin into the main tyre grooves at several places around the circumference of the tyre and across its width. If the outer band of the 20p coin is visible whenever you check the tread, your tread depth may be illegal and you should have them checked by a qualified tyre specialist.

If you don’t: You can face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre, and reduce the amount of control you will have when accelerating, braking and cornering.