An alarming official report into the number of deaths and injuries caused on British motorways has highlighted the importance of tyre checks and ensuring puncture repairs are carried out to the highest standard.
More than 30 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway accidents in 2016 due to illegal or faulty tyres. Yet almost three quarters of motorway incidents related to tyre failure could be prevented if drivers carried out simple checks, according to research unveiled by Highways England and Bridgestone tyres.
The findings of the 18-month study are based on more than 1,000 pieces of tyre debris from motorways, which were gathered by staff working for Highways England at depots across the West Midlands, and provided to a technical engineering team from Bridgestone to analyse.
Some of the samples were particularly shocking, with a temporary ‘space-saver’ spare tyre being run to destruction. Also a number of potentially lethal and illegal ‘string’ repairs were also found on car tyres, which are completely unsuitable at any speed, let alone 70mph speeds on motorways.
The full findings from 1035 tyre segments retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 revealed:
• 56% of tyres failed due to road/yard debris penetration
• 18% failed due to poor inflation
• 8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance
• 1% of tyres failed due to manufacturing defects
• 1% of tyres failed due to excessive heat
• 16% of the tyres couldn’t be specified to one particular problem
The tyre debris was taken from cars, vans, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, with under-inflation of tyres a key theme, along with poor vehicle maintenance, both of which accounted for 26% of the entire sample.
With 32 people being killed or seriously injured in motorway road traffic accidents in 2016 due to ‘illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres’ Bridgestone and Highways England say simple tyre checks save lives.
Gary Powell, Bridgestone tyres technical manager, who oversaw the analysis of the debris, said: “This report has taken a great deal of time and effort, involving a painstaking process of collecting tyre debris over 18 months and analysing it in depth thereafter.
“In conclusion, some simple tyre checks can save lives, not to mention reduce the risk of a stressful breakdown on a motorway.
“With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programs, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable.”
Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, added: “England’s motorways are the safest in the world but we’re determined to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on them.
“This important research confirms our view that road users must play a bigger role and get into the habit of checking tyre pressures and tread depths and looking out for nails and other debris stuck in tyres before setting out on journeys. These simple checks could save lives.”
Safe and legal puncture repairs
There are a number of puncture repair options available. However, only one is considered industry best practice and a British Standard Repair. This is the British Standard BS AU 159 and it will last the lifetime of the tyre.
However, the so-called ‘string’, referred to in the research, and patch repairs are not British Standard. They are also carried out externally, which means the tyre is not removed from the wheel. This prevents a proper inspection of the inside of the tyre being carried out . Ultimately this can result in internal damaged going undetected and a tyre returning to the road in an unsafe condition.
All puncture repairs carried out by etyres are in compliance with British Standard BS AU 159. etyres fitters will always remove the tyre from the wheel to fully inspect any damage and judge whether a puncture can be safely repaired or not.
Denna Bowman, Head Office