One in five motorists are driving on dangerous tyres

New safety campaign highlights the importance of safe tyres as more than half (55%) of motorists don’t know how to carry out tyre checks 

Posted on 24 May 2018

Investigation across 10 UK cities reveals one in five (21%) cars – equivalent to eight million(1) - have tyres with tread below the recommended limit (3mm), with 1.4 million(2) (3%) Brits driving with tyres below the legal limit (1.6mm) (3)
Additional research reveals almost two thirds (61%) of motorists don’t know the minimum legal tyre tread depth. 
Tongue-in-cheek ‘bald is dangerous’ safety awareness film  drives home importance of checking your tyre tread.
FAQ guide by Confused.com addresses some of the myths and misconceptions of tyre safety.

More than one in five (21%) UK motorists – equivalent to more than eight million – are driving on dangerous tyres, according to a new study(1).

The investigation by Confused.com, the driver savings site, involved spot checks of more than 1,000 vehicles in 10 cities around the country. A fifth of vehicles checked (21%)(1) had at least one tyre with tread below 3mm, which is the point at which major manufactures recommend you change your tyres(3)

A total of 3% – the equivalent of 1.4M motorists(2) – were found to have at least one illegal tyre, falling below the minimum legal limit of 1.6mm. Not only does this significantly increase the chance of accidents, but motorists also risk three penalty points and a fine of £2,500 per tyre(3). But worryingly, additional research showed that three fifths (61%) of motorists don’t know what the minimum legal tread depth is, and more than half (55%) don’t know how to check their tyres, to avoid landing themselves in this situation. To drive home the importance of checking tyres to avoid these fines or an accident, Confused.com has launched a ‘Bald is Dangerous’ safety film. The tongue-in-cheek campaign video highlights just how devastating the consequences of driving on bald tyres can be.

The investigation highlights that some areas of the UK are risking going bald more so than others. Of the cities involved in the spot checks, vehicles in Edinburgh were found to have the highest number of cars with at least one tyre below the recommended tread of 3mm (27%), compared to the national average of 21%), while cars in Newcastle and Ipswich had the highest proportion of vehicles with at least one illegal tyre (both 5%, compared to the national average of 3%). 

And it seems UK drivers have experienced first-hand just how dangerous driving on bald tyres can be. According to further research by the driver savings site, almost one in 20 (4%) UK drivers have had an accident due to defective tyres – almost a tenth (8%) of which happened this year (2018),and a further one in seven (15%) in 2017.

The issue could be due to the significant number of drivers who don’t know how to conduct tyre checks, or what guidelines suggest(3). But it isn’t just knowing how to change a tyre that could catch drivers out. In fact, if you are involved in an accident and it’s later revealed that you had bald tyres, your insurer could void your claim and invalidate your policy, as your car would be deemed unroadworthy – the same would apply if your car failed its MOT. This is just one unknown fact that is highlighted in Confused.com’s FAQ guide, created to tackle any misconceptions of tyre safety.

But drivers’ lack of knowledge on changing tyres has left them vulnerable and at risk of accidents. Although what’s more worrying is that more than one in 10 motorists (11%) have never had the tyres checked of their car. Furthermore, among those who have had their tyres checked, many will only do so when they receive an MOT, rather than conduct the checks themselves (16%). 

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “It’s worrying to find so many people are driving with baldies. Even though our safety film is tongue-in-cheek, our research shows there is a serious lack of awareness among some motorists. 

“Tyre tread ignorance could land offenders with fines of up to £2,500 per tyre, invalidate their insurance or lead to an accident.

“By conducting a few simple checks each month, such as the 20p test, drivers can keep themselves and other motorists safe. Driving has become expensive enough as it is, and avoiding unwanted fines should be incentive enough to comply with road safety regulations. Drivers wanting to further reduce their motoring costs can save up to £289(4) by shopping around, using sites such as Confused.com.”

Regional breakdown of tyre spot checks

City  Number of vehicles with at least one tyre with tread below 3mm  Number of vehicles with at least one tyre with tread below 1.6mm 
UK average 21%  3%
Edinburgh 27% (highest)  4%
Newcastle 21% 5% (joint highest)
Leeds 17% 4%
Manchester 26% 4%
Ipswich 19% 5% (joint highest)
Birmingham 23% 0%
Cardiff 19% 2%
Bristol 20% 3%
London 16% 3%
Brighton 21% 4%

-Ends- 

Notes to editors

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (national representative sample). The research was conducted between 27th March and 29th March 2018.

1. Figures obtained by research agency, PCP, through spot checks on 100 vehicles in 10 UK cities (1,000 vehicles in total) in March and April 2018. The cities involved were Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Ipswich, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, London, and Brighton. The cities involved were Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Ipswich, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, London, and Brighton.
The experiment found that 20.9% of tyres were below 3mm, including 3% which were below 1.6mm. According to official data (https://data.gov.uk/dataset/driving-licence-data), there are 40,201,179 full driving licence holders in the UK as of November 2017. 20.9% of 40,201,179 = 8,402,046, or over 8 million.
2. Using the figures obtained by research agency PCP as cited in the above point, as basis. According to official data (https://data.gov.uk/dataset/driving-licence-data), there are 40,201,179 full driving licence holders in the UK as of November 2017. 3.4% of 40,201,179 = 1,366,840 or almost 1.4 million
3. Source: ROSPA: Tyre Safety Factsheet February 2017 states that they recommend that worn tyres are replaced with a new equivalent unit well before the legal minimum tread limit of 1.6mm is reached – ideally as soon as they reach 3mm https://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-safety/vehicles/tyre-safety-factsheet.pdf
4. Based on online independent research by Consumer Intelligence (March ’18). 50% of car insurance customers could save £289.25.


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About Confused.com

Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first price comparison site for car insurance and is one of the UK’s biggest and most popular price comparison services, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the last couple of years to include small van insurance, motorcycle insurance, car buying and selling, and car finance, as well as a number of tools designed to save drivers money on motoring.

Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased comparison service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.

Confused.com is owned by the Admiral Group plc. Admiral listed on the London Stock Exchange in September 2004. Confused.com is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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