Last week was tyre safety week and The Highways Agency and TyreSafe were doing their best to raise awareness of the risks unsafe and improperly maintained tyres pose to road users and those around them. However, what could be viewed as most shocking is research by Micheldever tyre specialists who discovered that 58% of the drivers they surveyed had at least one tyre that had a tread depth below the legal limit. This information has compelled us to do our bit to raise awareness of tyre safety issues and also give you our best car tyre safety tips to ensure you stay safe on the roads this winter.
Tyre Failures Analysis
So, what are the main causes of tyre failures? One of the most common, and often devastating, tyre failure reasons is under or over inflation. Although many of the issues associated with under or over inflation are relatively small, such as driving comfort or overall tyre life, others can be far more impactful. Over inflation of tyres can reduce your vehicles grip and also lead to irregular tyre wear. Under inflation can be even more dangerous with it sometimes leading to tyre casing flexing which can directly result in overheating, an increase of rolling resistance (and therefore worse fuel economy), premature wear and in some cases catastrophic tyre failure.
Catastrophic tyre failure is far more likely to occur at speed which makes it an even more dangerous prospect. Travelling quickly will always lead to a faster and more substantial build up of heat in the vehicles tyre. It is this heat that can exacerbate existing issues such as under inflation or slight tyre damage and lead to sudden tyre pressure failure and tyre destruction. If this was to happen whilst you were travelling at 70MPH down the motorway the results would be frightening and possibly fatal.
Another tyre failure example is that of sudden destruction due to overloading. Just like travelling at speed, travelling whilst exceeding your tyre load index can lead to a build up of excessive heat which could possibly lead to sudden tyre destruction. You may know you have a slow puncture, or maybe you know one of your tyres is below the legal tyre wear limit, but you just feel like you don’t have the time to get it sorted. We think that the sacrifice of a few hours maximum (if you book a time slot it will probably take less) to have your tyres checked, and changed if necessary, is worth it when you consider the risks.
Tyre Related Car Crash Statistics
The Telegraph have a fantastic piece on car crash statistics that goes into real depth about the causes of road traffic accidents and is relatively up to date (it’s dated the 25 Aug 2011). You can find it here if you wanted to peruse it but the main takeaway for this articles purpose is the fact that tyre failure was the cause of 1.5% of all car crashes in the UK in 2011. With 1,901 deaths occurring on Britains roads in that same year a simple piece of maths will tell you that about 28 of them may have been tyre failure deaths! 28 lives could have been saved that year if all tyres were properly maintained…
Tyre Tread Wear Statistics
The current average tyre life check puts the average life of a tyre at about 30,000 miles. However, recent research suggests that drivers are losing 9 months of tyre use, or 20.7% of tyre wear life, per tyre! This will be due to the aforementioned tyre failure contributors but is also down to garages prematurely changing tyres, intentionally or not.
Tyre Safety Tips
So, what can you do to keep your tyres safe? Here’s a quick bullet point list for you to tick off the next time you take a look.
- Check tyre tread – we could give you a wordy explanation of how to check your tyre tread but this video from Michelin summarises it perfectly! (See below)The minimum legal tyre wear tread depth for UK passenger vehicles that aren’t motorbikes and aren’t fitted with more than 8 seats is 1.6 mm.
- Check your tyre pressures at least once a month or before a long journey. You can do this at most petrol stations. If you are unsure of the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle check the manufacturers hand book. Ensure you check the pressure when your tyres are cold i.e. when they haven’t been driven on for very long.
- Visually inspect the tyre for any issues. Remove any stones that are lodged in the tread and be aware of any bulges, lumps or cuts in the rubber.
If you see anything that you deem suspicious don’t just carry on driving. Visit your local garage for an inspection.
What To Do When Your Tyre Blows
Of course, even if you are vigilant and maintain your tyres there is still a risk your tyre could blow like in this video from The Highways Agency:
As you can see the results can be quite dramatic. But what can you do to help minimise the danger and risk if your tyre was to blow? The first and most important tip is do NOT slam on the brakes. It may be your natural or even programmed reaction but you must override your instinct. 9 times out of 10 heavy breaking will cause the car to spin out as it pivots on the blown out wheel and can lead to you colliding with other road users or obstacles.
If your rear tyre blows your car will start to weave. When this happens accelerate slightly to counter the weave and then allow the car to slow down of its own accord avoiding the brake pedal at all costs. Keep your eyes on the road and hands firmly on the steering wheel at all times to keep complete control and minimise the risk to others.
If your front tyre blows out the car will pull heavily in the direction of whichever tyre has gone. Steer hard in the opposite direction to maintain control and if there is space ahead allow the car to slow down of its own accord. If there is not space for this to happen you could possibly depress the brakes very lightly to assist in a reduction of speed but your main priority should be keeping control of the steering wheel and allowing the vehicle to its speed naturally.
We hope this piece highlights to you how important a few simple checks can be to your own safety and to the safety of other road users. Stay safe on the roads this winter!
Written by Ryan Hill