Rolling safety – three steps to keep tyres roadworthy

28th September 2012

The latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) have revealed that 205 people were killed or seriously injured in accidents involving illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres, a sharp rise on 2010's figure.

In addition, 931 people were 'slightly injured' last year for the same reasons, meaning dodgy tyres accounted for a total of 1,136 reported injuries and deaths combined.

Defective brakes follow closely behind tyres in the DfT's table of contributory factors, accounting for eight deaths last year and 1,024 minor or serious injuries.

Arriving just days before National Tyre Month kicks off, the statistics highlight the importance of buying tyres from a well-trusted source and the need for motorists to pay more attention to their rubber's level of inflation.

"These latest figures are very disturbing, especially given that the number of casualties in all road accidents also rose for the first time in many years," said Stuart Jackson, chairman of Tyresafe.

"It really does reinforce the need for drivers to regularly inspect their tyres to make sure they are safe and legal. October's tyre safety month is the perfect opportunity to carry out some basic tyre checks and help put a stop to this needless loss of life."

The 2011 figure represents an eight per cent rise on 2010's, and adds ballast to the 825,000 tyre-related breakdowns attended by the AA and RAC during 2011.

Tyre Safety Month kicks off next week, with safety bodies and motoring groups alike using the occasion as a platform to increase awareness of tyre inspection and maintenance.  

The danger damaged tyres can pose was brought home recently by the tragic death of pharmacist Joanna Smith, killed in a crash as a result of vandalism to her car.

Mrs Smith was travelling along the A45 near Earls Barton when tyre damage caused her to crash while driving at between 60 and 70mph, taking her life. Forensic tests revealed one of the tyres on her Honda Jazz had been punctured deliberately.

Drivers can get involved with Tyre Safety Month by taking TyreSafe's 20p pledge, launched as a Facebook app. The initiative encourages drivers to check the tread depth of their rubber with a 20 pence coin.

Three main areas need to be observed when motorists are checking their vehicle's tyres to ensure they meet legal standards. 

The first is tread depth. The more tread depth your tyres offer, the better they cope in wet conditions, making this feature particularly important during the rainiest time of the year.

Vehicle owners should check their tread depth on all four tyres using a dedicated tread gauge or the built-in tread wear indicator on their tyres. Alternatively, the 20 pence piece method mentioned above is an equally effective option.

Check your tread depth in each main groove and in at least two separate points along the groove. The legal minimum for tread depth is 1.6mm, though 3mm or thereabouts is recommended for optimum performance on the road.

Next up, tyre pressure. It's up to drivers to check the correct pressure required for their vehicle in its operating manual or a similar information source (many cars state this figure on their fuel cap or elsewhere).

Check the level when the tyres are cold (about an hour after driving). You can use a digital tyre gauge to do this – take off the dust cap on the valve, fix on the pressure gauge and make a note of the result, comparing it to the recommendation.  

If your tyres are overinflated you can release air when the dust cap is off. Most garages or service centres will reinflate your tyres for you, or you can use a car tyre inflator to do it yourself.

Last but very definitely not least, checking for irregular damage or wear to your tyres is an equally vital aspect of care. Keep an eye on signs of serious degradation, cuts, cracks, bulges and similar irregularities. Make sure there are no sharp objects stuck in your tread grooves and examine the rubber closely on both sides of all four tyres, as well as the wheel rims.

Many cars also have Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) fitted – those with a vehicle that features this technology should become familiar with how it alerts you to tyre problems. 

By following these steps motorists can ensure themselves they are doing everything possible to prevent blowouts and other tyre setbacks on the road.

Looking to buy tyres online? ATS Euromaster is here to help.

Posted by Danielle Barge