Tyres: the dangers and the law

Incorrectly maintained tyres are the cause of many serious road accidents. The two main areas that should concern you are tyre wear and incorrect tyre pressures. The law considers correct tyre maintenance to be so important that it can impose severe penalties of up to three penalty points on your licence and a fine of up to £2,500 per tyre.

The law says...

According to the Road Traffic Act of 1988, it is your responsibility as the driver of the car to ensure that its tyres have a safe depth of tread - more than 1.6mm deep across the central 75% of the tyre. The police may also choose to enforce the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations of 1986, which apply not only to tyres, but to brakes, steering, wheels, fuel and emissions. The Motor Vehicles Tyres (Safety) Regulations of 1994, which apply to the supply of tyres, worn tyres and retread tyres may apply to the substandard tyres on your vehicle.

That same importance is not attached to tyres by motorists themselves. A Continental Tyres study found that 40% of British motorists claimed to have never checked their tyre pressures, fewer knew how to check tread depths and 70% weren't aware of what the minimum legal tread depth was.

Even knowledge of the law is not enough

If you know your legal obligations, there are other factors that could catch you out. For example, if you use an air pump at a filling station you may be using equipment that isn't reading correctly through misuse. But even if the pressure gauge at your chosen garage is accurate, just driving there from home could cause your tyres to be under-inflated by up to 15%, just through your tyres heating up in use. Some commentators have urged tyre and manufacturers to publish recommended 'warm' pressure levels.

But it's not just your legal obligations

Aside from the possibility of breaking the law, how confident are you that you can control your car if you get a blow-out or into a skid at high speed? Regular weekly inspections and tyre pressure checks will reduce the possibilities of anything going wrong and you endangering the lives of you, your passengers, other road users, and even pedestrians?

What's more, keeping an eye on your tyres and maintaining them correctly helps you every time you get in your car. Not just by rewarding you with better handling, but through your bank account. Getting the pressure right means your tyres will last longer and you'll be using less fuel.

David Williams MBE is the Chief Executive of GEM Motoring Assist, a leading road safety organisation in the UK. GEM Motoring Assist is a multi award-winning breakdown provider renowned for the quality and value of its services.

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