A Motors.co.uk and Falken Tyres investigation has found parents are needlessly risking their children’s lives by driving around on lethal tyres.
In a recent tyre spot-check at a Shropshire school, we found around a third of drivers had at least one illegally worn tyre – and one parent was even driving her children around with two completely bald tyres.
So concerned is Falken at the findings, that it gave away free sets of tyres to parents with the most dangerously worn-out rubber.
In total, of the 25 parents’ cars inspected, eight had at least one killer tyre.
As if this wasn’t shocking enough, worse still were the attitudes displayed by some who came to collect their children. One mother even believed her tyres were safe, as the car had passed its MOT, despite one wheel showing significant deflation due to a slow leak.
Another father, busy loading children into his people carrier, seemed unconcerned that he had been driving around with a nail embedded in one of his tyres.
The AA’s Edmund King said: “I am shocked and appalled that one third of parents are potentially putting their children’s safety at risk by driving on illegal tyres.
“AA/Populus research amongst 21,510 drivers shows that over the last two years 13 per cent of drivers have let their tyres wear down to the legal limit. Drivers need to remember that their tyres are the only contact they have with the road.”
Inspecting the tyres was Matt Smith, UK and Ireland director of Falken. He told us why sufficient tread depth is critical: “Tread grooves are there for a reason. Those voids are there to allow the evacuation of water, specifically to resist aquaplaning.
“The shallower the groove, the more likely the tyre is to lift off when driving over water and sliding, and is more likely to cause an accident.”
The tyre-check highlighted other issues. Aside from worn tyres, many of the cars inspected had old tyres, with one 13-year old people carrier wearing the same tyres as the day it left the factory.
“As a tyre ages the compound begins to oxidise,” explained Smith. “This can lead to cracks and an overall degradation in both the tyre’s structure and its performance.”
While almost all of the parents were aware of the penalties of being caught driving on illegal rubber – three penalty points and a £60 fine PER tyre – few admit to regularly ensuring their tyres have sufficient tread depth or are even pumped up with enough air.
“My husband checks them,” was a common excuse, with one mother admitting she hadn’t a clue as to the state of her tyres as her other half had been away on business for six months.
While some did routinely check their tyres for wear most admitted that they didn’t take any action until their car felt as though it was driving differently.
So why are so many people taking the risk? Economic factors are a large influence, with the number of drivers on illegal rubber increasing dramatically since the 2008 recession. Certainly for the parents at the tyre-check, price was the overriding factor in tyre choice. Many said that safety and wet weather performance was also a concern, though few were prepared to pay over £50 per tyre.
So what do you do if you want to ensure that your car is safe, without breaking the bank on top of the line tyres? The best thing you can do is to buy a reputable brand from a reputable tyre dealer.
Crucially, however, buy brand new tyres. Not only are part worn options a false economy, offering relatively less usable tread depth, their history is also unknown, meaning it could have been taken from a crashed car, or spent years banging into potholes before being fitted to your car.
Depending on your car, fitting good quality tyres can cost anything up to £500 a corner. It’s a hefty outlay, but considering they are the most critical element in keeping your passengers safe and your car on the road, the extra outlay really could result in an accident prevented further down the road. It’s worth asking yourself if your child’s life is worth the risk…
Picture: Daljinder Nagra