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Millions Of Drivers Risking Safety With Illegal Tyres

By Stephen Turvil | July 14, 2015


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Road safety compromised by millions of motorists that run tyres beyond the legal minimum, safety charity claims.

Millions Of Drivers Risking Safety With Illegal Tyres

Millions of motorists risk their safety running tyres beyond the legal minimum tread depth, TyreSafe claims. The road safety charity's survey – that was conducted in partnership with Highways England – shows that more than 25% of drivers that recently replaced a tyre waited until it was illegal. When multiplied, this suggests that there are more than 10 million illegal – and potentially life threatening – tyres in England, Scotland and Wales. This equates to 1 in 4 of the nation's 35.3 million cars and light commercial vehicles. The latter incorporates panel vans and their derivatives, car-based vans, and pick-up trucks (up to 3.5 tonnes). 

TyreSafe says it is “reiterating its long standing message about simple tyre safety maintenance”. It emphasises that tread depth plays a “decisive factor” in how effectively a vehicle brakes - particularly when the road surface is wet. Research – the not-for-profit organisation says – shows that the braking distance from 50 mph to 0 mph in the wet increases by more than the length of a shipping container when using old tyres rather than new (14m).

TyreSafe Chairman Stuart Jackson explains: 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.” He continues: “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. 

Mr Jackson concludes: “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.”

How To Check A Tyre Is Legal

A tyre's legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central 75% of its width, and around the circumference. This can be confirmed via a digital or analogue measuring tool. An alternative is the 20p test. Insert a 20p coin into the tread. If its outer edge is visible the tread is most likely beyond the legal limit. Furthermore, it is important – if the vehicle is to brake and handle properly – to ensure a tyre has the correct pressure. The optimum can often be confirmed via a sticker on the driver-side a-pillar. This can be revealed by opening the door. Also check the tyre for punctures, bulges in the side wall and excessive cracking.

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