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.