Motorists urged to avoid accidents this winter by carrying out basic tyre safety checks

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Motorists are being urged to take vehicle maintenance seriously, especially during winter weather, after a survey revealed that an alarming numbers of drivers are not carrying out basic and essential safety checks.

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Even if they notice a problem with their vehicle, many drivers admit to knowingly putting lives at risk by driving anyway, while others are not sure how to carry out the simplest safety checks, according to the findings of the study by Brake and Direct Line.

The survey found:

* Almost half (45%) admit having driven with at least one risky vehicle problem or defect in the past year, with men and young drivers the worst offenders
* More than a quarter are not confident they know how to make essential checks like ensuring tyres are in safe and legal condition (27%) and brakes are working properly (26%), with confidence lowest among women and young drivers. For tyres, this is up from two in five (20%) three years ago [1]. See the full report for more on trends
* One in three (37%) do not ensure their tyres have 3mm tread (recommended in wet weather)
* Only a minority carry some important emergency items in winter, like a high-vis vest (27%), food and water (20%) and blanket or warm clothes (38%)
* One in seven (15%) do not make basic checks such as correct oil and water levels or working lights, indicators, or brakes before long journeys, with women less likely to make checks than men

The research also revealed that younger drivers are most at risk, with a third (33%) of 17-24 year olds admitting they are not confident they know how to check their brakes are working properly and more than three in five 17-34 year olds (63% 17-24, 62% 25-34) having driven when they knew there was a problem with their vehicle.

Men performed better than women in terms of making and being confident about maintenance checks. However, men were also more willing to take risks by knowingly driving a vehicle with problems. See full results below or the survey report.

With vehicle defects contributing to 2,000 crashes – 42 of them fatal – in 2013 alone (latest figures) [2], vehicle maintenance is a serious issue. Brake is urging all drivers to take responsibility for the safety of their own vehicle, by making basic checks once a week and before any long journeys, and getting any problems fixed straight away. Go to www.brake.org.uk/maintenanceadvice for more detailed advice.

Brake is also concerned that many drivers are unprepared for bad conditions or breakdowns during the winter months. Stopping distances can double in the wet and increase ten-fold in ice and snow, so keeping tyres and brakes in good condition is more critical than ever.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, warned: “Safe driving starts before you get behind the wheel – the driver has to be fit to drive, and so does the vehicle. Taking a vehicle on the road without being sure it is roadworthy is asking for trouble, exposing yourself and others to unnecessary danger and potentially costing you more in the long-run.

“It is shocking to see so many drivers both ignorant and wilfully negligent when it comes to basic and essential vehicle maintenance checks. It’s especially worrying at this time of year, when drivers need to make sure they and their vehicle are prepared in case bad weather hits.”

Motorists who spot a potential problem after carrying out safety checks should get it sorted immediately or risk breaking down, which involves extra costs, or even worse, an accident.

Rob Miles, director of motor at Direct Line, added: “Drivers are putting themselves, their passengers and other road users in jeopardy through their actions. If you fail to make basic maintenance checks on your vehicle, particularly in the cold weather, you are dramatically increasing your chances of a crash, not to mention the risk of a fine and even points on your licence.”

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