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Cost of living crisis putting lives at risk

The cost of living crisis is probably putting lives at risk as motorists skimp on essential tyre maintenance.

With inflation at 11 per cent and food inflation even higher at a 45-year high of 16.5 per cent, motoring budgets are coming under increasing pressure and critical car maintenance is one of the casualties, according to the Office for National Statistics in the UK.

The Institute of Advance Motorists in the UK also found in their survey that 11 per cent of respondents had not replaced their car tyres when the tread was worn, and seven per cent simply didn’t replace a punctured tyre.

A defective tyre (An Garda Síochána)

Lois Harvey, category manager at UK tyre and maintenance provider ATS Euromaster, commented: “These are seriously worrying statistics. While it’s understandable that family budgets have to give somewhere as income is stretched to breaking point, ignoring tyre safety is simply putting lives at risk.

“The modern car is a wonder of technology, but there still remains just four small patches of rubber that keep increasingly heavier cars on the road. Driving with worn or damaged tyres puts both driver and passengers – as well as other road users – in serious danger.

“Tyres at the 1.6mm minimum lose efficiency in wet conditions because they cannot displace rainwater effectively. The result is what’s called aquaplaning, a situation when the tyre loses contact with the tarmac because of the water. Once a car is aquaplaning, there’s no control.”

The results of the survey were unveiled by road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, which interviewed 1,004 motorists on whether the cost of living crisis had delayed critical tyre maintenance as part of October’s Tyre Safety Month, organised by TyreSafe. The charity reckoned that up to 4.2 million drivers were possibly deferring critical tyre safety maintenance based on the number of motorists in the UK.

“There’s no grey area here,” continued Harvey. “If your tyres are worn or damaged they need to be replaced. Ignoring the situation and continuing to drive puts lives at risk.”

ATS Euromaster said it was already seeing the impact of tyre neglect on some of the tyres it has been changing recently. For tyres changed during September 2022, 12.8 per cent were worn below the legal minimum and 3.8 per cent had seriously damaged tyre walls.

“Our advice is to change your tyres before they reach minimum tread to maintain optimum grip. A depth of 3mm is best for good wet weather performance, particularly during the winter months,” added Harvey. “But don’t bury your head in the sand: if your tyres are illegal, then they really need to be changed.”

Advice for tyre maintenance

  • Check your tyres weekly for tread wear and any damage to the sidewalls
  • Check your tyres regularly. If in doubt, take it to your local reputable tyre retailer where technicians will do the check for you.
  • Make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressures at least once a month. Under- or over-inflated tyres cost money in additional fuel consumption – or reduced range if you drive an electric vehicle.
  • If you need to replace a tyre, there is a large range of tyre brands and manufacturers to suit most budgets, from premium, mid-range and include some of the best budget buys.
  • Do not be tempted to buy part-worn tyres though. These are a false economy and could be deadly. There is no standard for these tyres; research by TyreSafe found that more than 63 per cent of part-worn tyres were unsafe.
  • If you cannot afford to replace worn or damaged tyres, then please do not be tempted to drive your car. Obviously it’s illegal, with hefty associated fines and penalties, but it will also put you, your family and other road users at severe risk.