Nearly 10m car and light commercial vehicle tyres could be dangerous and illegal.
Research from not-for-profit organisation TyreSafe and Highways England found that more than a quarter of all drivers had an illegal tyre on their vehicle, at the time they were replaced suggesting that nearly 10m tyres on the roads of England, Scotland and Wales could be dangerous and illegal in 2015.
The findings come from the most comprehensive survey across Britain’s tyre industry to date, which collated data on the tread depth of tyres when they are replaced. With the legal minimum at 1.6mm, tread depth plays a decisive factor in braking and steering especially in the wet.
Research has demonstrated that the braking distance from 50mph to standstill in wet conditions increases by more than the length of a full-sized shipping container (14m) when using worn tyres rather than new ones, which dramatically raises the chances of a collision.
TyreSafe said the main reason so many millions of motorists are taking risks with their tyre safety lies in a lack of awareness and driver education.
“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,” said Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe chairman. “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”
TyreSafe believed many more millions of motorists are avoiding having illegal tyres on their vehicles more by luck than judgement. In addition to over a quarter of replaced tyres being illegal, more than a third of all tyres surveyed were extremely close to the legal limit with a maximum of 0.4mm of tread depth remaining before becoming illegal – about half the thickness of a bank card. That thickness can only be measured using an accurate tread depth gauge, but previous research shows very few drivers are actually carrying out routine tyre checks of any sort.