Tread carefully on the roads21 Aug 2008

Seventeen million motorists* are taking a ‘tread-bare’ approach to vehicle maintenance, according to the RAC Foundation, who are today (15) emphasising the dangers of tired tread and wrongly inflated tyres as part of an eight-week tyre safety campaign supported by the National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA).

45% of motorists do not know the minimum legal tread depth for tyres, and this figure rises to 60% for women. Motorists living in East Anglia, the North East, Midlands and Wales are more likely than other UK motorists to know the minimum legal tread depth for tyres. People living in Northern Ireland, the North West, South East and Scotland are most at risk from misunderstanding the importance of tired tread. **

Illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres contributed to 2% of all fatal accidents in 2006*** which should act as a warning to the seventeen million drivers who do not check their tyres regularly. Skid resistance surfaces on UK roads vary according to carriageway finish**** and weather, making it wise for drivers to change their tyres when the tread reaches the 3mm level, rather than the legal minimum of 1.6mm, as stopping distances are improved by 20%*****.

Good tyres are needed for safe driving as they affect the steering, braking and acceleration of vehicles. It is against the law to have:

* Car tyres with tread worn to below 1.6mm;

* A mix of radial and cross-ply tyres;

* Over or under-inflated tyres;

* Tyres with cuts, lumps, bulges or tears;

* The wrong sort of tyre fitted to a vehicle or trailer.

The RAC Foundation is urging petrol retailers to continue to provide free, accurate and well-maintained tyre pressure gauges to reduce the number of drivers on the road with incorrectly inflated tyres. Motorists who are unsure of how to check their tyre condition can either take advantage of the free safety check available at NTDA retailers until 30th September or follow the following advice:

1. How to check tread depth:

Most tyres have tread wear indicators, usually six or more small ribs across the bottom of the main tread grooves. When the tread surface is level with these ribs, the tyre needs to be replaced.

2. How to check tyre pressure:

Look in your handbook or consult your garage or tyre dealer for the recommended pressures for your vehicle. You should check the pressure at least every two weeks, and only when the tyres are cool.

Elizabeth Dainton, Research Development Manager for the RAC Foundation said: ‘Tyre safety is not an optional extra. Tyres are the only contact a car has with the road surface. How well the road and tyre grip each other maybe the difference between life and death in an emergency, making it vitally important for motorists to check their tyres regularly.’

Richard Edy, director of the National Tyre Distributors Association, said ‘Regrettably, tyre maintenance is not as high a priority as it should be for millions of drivers. However, there are 2,700 NTDA member centres in the UK that are willing, ready and expertly qualified to check tyres and pass on sound safety advice, completely free of charge.

‘Any driver who is unsure about tyre tread wear, inflation pressure or the age of tyres fitted to a vehicle should call in for a free check at the earliest opportunity.’


Editors notes:

The RAC Foundation Tyre Condition Fact File finds:

* Tyre defects are the leading vehicle failure contributing to accidents. They are a contributory factor in 3% of motorway collisions***.

* Slippery roads, due to weather, were a contributory factor in a 9% of accidents reported in 2006***.

* 20% under-inflation can increase tyre wear by 25%

* 20% under-inflation can reduce tyre life by 30%

* 20% under-inflation can reduce fuel economy by 3%

* 12% of cars are running on illegal tyres (under 1.6mm tread)

* 90% of tyres are incorrectly inflated

* Under-inflated tyres cause a reduction in the overall control of the vehicle and increase braking distances

* Over-inflated tyres cause poor vehicle handling, reduced stability in braking, cornering and reduced grip.

The eight-week tyre safety campaign, run in association with the National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) began on Thursday 31st July 2008.

Motorists can take advantage of free safety check available at NTDA retailers until 30th September.

* Survey results from GfK NOP survey of 500 motorists 11-13 July 2008. 45% of the 37.5 million motorists in the UK do not know the minimum legal tread for tyres is 1.6mm. This accounts for 16.8 million motorists.

** Percentage of motorists from regions in the UK who are aware of the minimum legal tread depth for tyres.

* East Anglia: 64%

* North East: 61%

* Midlands: 60%

* Wales: 60%

* London: 56%

* UK wide: 54%

* Scotland: 52%

* South East: 51%

* North West: 45%

* Northern Ireland:35% (Small sample: Care should be taken with interpretation)

* South West: Sample too small for assumptions

*** DfT (2006) Road Casualties Great Britain 2006

**** DfT (2007) Road Conditions in England: 2007

***** Motor Industry Research Association, 2004

About the RAC Foundation

The RAC Foundation for Motoring is an independent body established to protect and promote the interests of UK motorists. Motoring organisation RAC supports its seven million customers with breakdown cover and a wide range of other motoring solutions. The views of each organisation should not be attributed to the other.

About the NTDA

Established in 1930, the NTDA is the professional body for the UK’s leading tyre retailers, with more than 300 individual companies and 2,700 fitting centres in membership.