By Alex Kapadia
Millions of motorists could be risking death by driving on illegal tyres to save money, according to the latest research from the National Tyre Distributors Association.
As many as 3.6 million UK motorists may be taking to the roads in vehicles that have at least one or more bald tyres.
Figures from the NTDA show that of nearly 60,000 cars checked in January 2009 by retail members, 7,000 were being driven on at least one illegal tyre.
Extrapolated across the population, this could amount to 3.6 million cars in the UK whose owners are at risk of causing serious road accidents.
The disturbing findings are reflected by another recent survey conducted by TyreSafe, revealing that nearly one in ten motorists expects to spend less on tyres in 2009 compared with last year.
Rob Beddis, chairman of TyreSafe, stated: “When you consider that there are over 30 million cars on the UK’s roads, learning that one in ten motorists admits they plan to spend less on tyres shows an alarming lack of awareness among drivers towards their own road safety and the safety of the others.
“Many tyre dealers have indeed reported that more drivers are letting their tyres run below the legal tread depth before they replace them as they feel the financial pinch. This is a worrying trend which sadly may result in more accidents and road deaths as a result of the loss of grip and longer stopping distances associated with illegal tyres.”
The TyreSafe research reveals that motorists in London are most likely to decrease their spending on tyres in 2009 with one in ten drivers expecting to spend less, while drivers in the East Midlands have the most responsible attitude towards replacing tyres, with less than 3 per cent expecting to spend less on tyres over the coming year.
During 2007 more than 1,000 accidents occurred on the UK’s roads where illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres were a contributory factor, resulting in the deaths of 43 motorists. Under the current law, car tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band throughout the central three-quarters of the tread width and over the whole circumference of the tyre.
Motorists found to be driving on illegal tyres face a maximum penalty of three penalty points and a fine of up to £2,500 per tyre.”