Flat tyres – an accident waiting to happen09 Apr 2009

With a busy Easter weekend predicted on the roads it is important for drivers to make sure the tyres on their cars are ready for the getaway.

More than 40 people die on our roads every year because of defective or improperly inflated tyres. Scores of others are injured.

Which is why the Royal Automobile Club Foundation is today urging motorists to carry out basic checks on the rubber that keeps them on the road.

RAC Foundation spokesman Philip Gomm said, “In the next few days many people will be heading for the coast or the country. But there might be an accident waiting to happen.”

“Like most things, tyres deteriorate with age. Just because a tyre has sufficient tread, this doesn’t make it safe. Check carefully for signs of cracking and aging. If in doubt ask an expert. Manufacturers recommend tyres be replaced if they are more than ten years old and drivers can find the date of production stamped into the rubber of the sidewall. Unfortunately only half the driving population know this information is there.”*

And tyre makers also suggest that tyres that have lain unused (as in the case of spares) should be discarded after six years. The materials used to make tyres dry out over time and can eventually separate, causing distortion, vibration and potentially failure.

Drivers need be aware too that even though the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, in the rain anything less than 3mm can affect performance.

There are also cost benefits in keeping your tyres at the right pressure.

“Incorrectly inflated tyres can be bad for safety, but also have an impact on fuel efficiency. If they are under-inflated fuel economy is cut by as much as ten per cent because of the extra resistance with the road.”

According to the EU 20-30% of all fuel used by cars is to overcome the rolling resistance of tyres. The EU is currently discussing measures to add extra information to tyre walls indicating fuel efficiency, wet grip and external rolling noise characteristics.


* A GFK NOP survey carried out last year revealed 49% of principal drivers knew the sidewall contained information about the date of manufacture.

The Highway Code advises that tyres be checked on a weekly basis. This should be done when tyres are cold.