Australian motorists are putting lives at risk by driving on unsafe tyres.
That’s the damning verdict of a new survey which revealed that 40% of drivers are unaware of legal tyre safety standards, and one in three have driven on tyres they suspected were unroadworthy.
The same number also admitted they have been fearful of an accident while driving on worn tyres.
Consumer research company Canstar Blue questioned more than 1600 motorists who have purchased car tyres in the last 18 months and found that one in five drivers don’t know how to check if their tyres are too worn, while one in four are unclear as to what the correct air pressure of their tyres should be.
“It’s deeply concerning to discover just how many drivers are uninformed about legal tyre safety standards, but are still willing to get behind the wheel of their car,” says Canstar Blue spokesman Simon Downes.
“Not only are they putting their own lives in danger by driving on worn tyres, they are also putting other road users at risk. Tyres seem to be one of those things that some drivers rarely consider and put to the back of their minds.
“Drivers also risk insurance claims being voided in the event of an accident if their tyres are worn. Insurance companies could potentially reject a claim if drivers haven’t maintained their vehicle in a roadworthy condition,” Downes says.
Russell White, founder and chief executive officer of the Australian Road Safety Foundation, says all motorists should be aware of safety standards and regularly check their tyres.
“No matter how good the car you’re driving is, its overall performance is governed by the tyres you have on it and the grip they provide,” he says.
“For proof you only need to watch a motor race to see how quickly a driver will slip down the field – or worse, slip off the road – once the tyres are past their best. Yet it is not uncommon for road drivers to continue driving on their tyres long after they are worn out.
“Depending on the severity of the rain, a tyre will have to push away anything from 4 to 9 litres of water per second as you travel along a highway at 100km/h. If a tyre is worn out, the tread cannot adequately disperse the water at the contact patch and a film of water will be sandwiched between the tyre and the road surface. And once this happens, the grip totally disappears.”
Female drivers are twice as likely as males to be unaware of tyre safety standards and almost three times as likely not to know how to check their tread depth. And the younger a driver is, the less likely they are to know about tyre safety, the survey found. Just over half of Gen Y survey respondents say they don’t know about legal tyre safety standards.
Tyres fitted to a vehicle, which do not have tyre wear indicators, must have a tread pattern at least 1.6mm deep. If the tread has worn down to any of the tyre wear indicators, or there is less than 1.6mm tread depth on the tyre, then it is considered to be unroadworthy.
Don’t pay the price for cheap tyres
The Canstar Blue survey also found that 48% of drivers delay buying new tyres for as long as possible, while 23% tend to buy the cheapest tyres available. But that, according to White, could be a big mistake.
“I understand that for some people the cost of four new tyres can be a strain on the household budget, but skimping on this could have life-threatening implications,” White adds.
“Tyres are arguably the most influential item you can fit to your car. They can literally transform the way the car feels and performs, so investing in the best tyres for your vehicle is a wise move.”