I sometimes say that nothing surprises me anymore yet, on occasion, something does surprise me which, surprisingly, often comes as no surprise. As someone who spends a lot of time driving, mostly in other peoples’ cars, I find I have become much more attentive to all aspects of driving. This is probably because I have a duty of care to the fine, new vehicles I am road-testing.
In short, I pay attention and take note. As a result my own car receives a weekly check-up without fail. I can tell you that at the time of writing I am researching the best deal on some Continental tyres, for example. Now I don’t want you to think that I am becoming holier than thou; the reason I am writing this is because of a couple of news items I feel the urge to pass on. One is from The Institute of Advanced Motorists and the other from those rubber fetishists at TyreSafe – the organisation that promotes tyre safety in the UK.
It seems that more than a quarter of all drivers had an illegal tyre on their vehicle, at the time they were replaced, at least according to results from a survey conducted by TyreSafe in partnership with Highways England. This could suggest that nearly 10 million tyres on the roads of England, Scotland and Wales could be dangerous and illegal in 2015.
That figure equates to potentially up to one in every four vehicles of the 35.3 million vehicles on Britain’s roads having an illegal tyre at some time during the year. The message is, loud and clear, about simple tyre safety maintenance, and all drivers are urged to check their tyres, making sure they are not adding a substantial and avoidable risk to both themselves and other road users.
With the legal minimum at 1.6mm, tread depth plays a decisive factor in braking and steering especially in the wet, as you well know. Research has demonstrated that the braking distance from 50mph to standstill in wet conditions increases by more than the length of a full-sized shipping container (14m) when using worn tyres rather than new ones, which dramatically raises the chances of a collision.
TyreSafe believes the main reason so many millions of motorists are taking risks with their tyre safety lies in a lack of awareness and driver education. I would add that expense, in these austerity days, is also a contributor as owners try to squeeze out the last bit of value – plus a bit more – from those black circles.
It’s not difficult. For air pressure, there is no longer any need to slope off to the local fuel station to use a possibly dodgy tyre gauge. Your nearest motor factor will have a selection of pumps that are inexpensive and are generally accurate to 1psi, which is fair enough. For condition, just use the eyes to look for lumps and bumps, cuts and abrasions that are the telltale signs of damage and use the edge of a 20p coin to check tread depth. If the outer band of the coin is visible then it’s off to the tyre shop with you pronto.
Elsewhere, the IAM has identified that once again ‘failure to look properly’ is the most common contributory factor included in over 30,000 vehicle accidents a year, following a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Transport.
Police can record up to six contributory factors from a list of 77 for each incident to explain why they think a crash took place but the top two give the most obvious reasons for the incident. Analysis of the 2013 contributory factor combinations shows that top of the list was ‘failure to look properly’ combined with a ‘failure to judge another person’s path or speed’. I mean, it’s not rocket science is it? We learn these things when undergoing driver training and, it would seem, some of the woolly headed or downright stupid folk out there instantly seem to forget them.
Think about it the next time you are out in the motor. Stay on the ball and see how many near misses you can spot because of downright carelessness. It is my contention that cars have become so easy to drive and combine so many automatic ‘driver aids’ that some motorists have ceased to think for themselves. That’s why I use a camera now.
IAM say, “We feel that many people eventually get complacent behind the wheel and inattention creeps in. Combine this with fatigue and distractions, inside and outside the vehicle and the message is clear that drivers must apply their full attention to driving – you simply cannot do two things at once if one of them is driving. We have consistently advocated that continuous assessment is one of the main ways to ensure no driver gets into bad behaviours that cannot then be rectified.”
Not a bad idea. Let’s go back to a time when drivers took a pride in how they managed their motors. Consciously applying good practice will improve your driving standards and add a modicum of satisfaction in your driving skills as you deliver your family safely to your destination.