Get your tyres checked today: It is a matter of life and death
* Our Road Safety Authority expert appeals to motorists to make sure their tyres aren't flawed
At a recent tyre-safety awareness drive in central Dublin, a representative from the Irish Tyre Industry Association (ITIA) set up a number of free standing metal podiums to display tyres.
They ranged in quality from brand new, through various states of wear and tear to what can only be described as tatters. Yes, tatters.
One tyre was so bad you would never have guessed it was once a tyre because it was really just vulcanised tassels hanging off a rubber ring.
"What in the name of God happened to that?" I asked.
The gentleman from the ITIA mimicked the customer who brought it into the tyre centre for replacement replying: "Oh sure it's only an auld tyre for a trailer." It was so old and worn that it over-heated on the road and exploded. The customer's comment was shocking but sadly it's an attitude that's widespread among motorists. We just don't take tyre safety seriously.
To highlight just how poor our attitudes are we surveyed 1,000 drivers earlier this year. It showed that motorists are not checking their tyres regularly, despite knowing how to do it.
Four out of five drivers reported that they know how to check the air pressure of their tyres, yet a mere one in 10 check this less than once a year. Or not at all.
Similarly, despite three-quarters of drivers saying they know how to check the condition and tread depth of their tyres, one in eight do it less than once a year or not at all. What can we do to change these attitudes?
Tyres are the only contact you have with the road. Remember; brakes stop the wheels but it's the tyres that stop the car, so it is critical they are in good condition and that the tread depth and air pressure are checked regularly.
A new tyre has 8mm of tread depth and the legal limit is 1.6mm but we would strongly recommend you consider replacing them when they reach 3mm. The legal limit for motorbikes and vintage cars is 1mm.
As the weather is starting to get colder and wetter, now is the time to get your tyres checked. And while a walk-around check will show any obvious signs of damage or wear on the outward facing side, you won't be able to see the condition of the tyre on the inward facing side. That can only be done by a mechanic. It costs nothing to get the tyres checked by the professionals. So no excuse.
Our survey highlighted another concern. It shows that one in eight drivers have bought part-worn or second-hand tyres in the past. Worryingly, one in 10 plan to buy a part-worn tyre rather than a new one in the next month.
We are concerned with the level of part-worn tyres being used on cars. There is no way of knowing what happened to them in a previous life. Consider this. When you use part-worn tyres you are choosing to use something someone else didn't feel safe using on their own car. Some part-worn tyres are on sale for as little as €20. While this may seem like a great deal, do the maths and you will see that you save more in the long run by investing in new tyres.
But I still haven't answered the question, how do we get people to sit up and take the issue of tyre safety more seriously?
Well, my colleagues in the RSA Research Department could have the answer. They are currently finalising a report, based on an analysis of five years' worth of forensic collision data, and it shows the quality of tyres plays a much bigger role in fatal collisions than previously thought. I have no doubt it will make people think twice about the quality of the tyres they put on their cars.
I'm asking you to get your tyres checked today. Make sure they are roadworthy, the right type and size for the car, properly inflated, free from defects and have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm.
It really is a matter of life and death.