Up to 30 deaths and serious injuries a year could be avoided on motorways if drivers paid more attention to the alarming state their tyres, a new study revealed today.
Nearly three quarters of motorway accidents linked to tyre failure could be prevented if drivers made simple checks for low pressure and prior penetration by sharp foreign objects, such as nails and screws, according to research carried out over 18 months by Highways England and tyre company Bridgestone.
Nearly six out of ten tyre failures were down to punctures caused by items stuck in the tyre, while more than a quarter were down to poor inflation or tyre maintenance, it concluded.
The problem is also leading to traffic jams which cost the economy millions of pounds in lost time, it calculates.
Rubber review: Up to 30 deaths and serious injuries a year could be avoided on motorways if drivers conducted more checks of their tyres
Results emerged after researchers painstakingly analysed more than 1,000 items of tyre debris from cars, vans and motorcycles – left behind after serious accidents on major motorways – to piece together how badly-maintained tyres played a major role in many accidents on motorways which are generally considered the safest roads.
It says many of the deaths and injuries are ‘preventable’ and that ‘simple checks could save lives.’
Often nails and other objects remain embedded in a tyre long before a puncture or high-speed blow-out occurs, they stress.
And they also wanted to dispel the myth that re-tread tyres were any more of a risk than normal tyres.
During the project, staff at the Highways England at depots across the West Midlands provided 1,035 pieces of tyre debris from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 motorways to a technical engineering team from tyre makers Bridgestone to analyse.
It revealed that nearly six out of ten (56 per cent) of tyres failed due to penetration of the tyre by debris such as a nail; nearly one in five (18 per cent) failed due to poor inflation, and one in 12 (8 per cent) failed due to poor vehicle maintenance.
More than a quarter of tyre problems that lead to failure are the result of poor inflation or maintenance, the report claimed
Nearly six out of ten tyre failures were down to punctures caused by items stuck in the tyre
By contrast, just 1 per cent of tyres failed due to manufacturing defects, another 1 per cent failed due to excessive heat, while 16 per cent of the tyres couldn’t be specified to one particular problem
The report noted: ‘The tyre debris was taken from cars, vans, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, with under-inflation of tyres a key theme, along with poor vehicle maintenance, both of which accounted for 26 per cent of the entire sample.
Tyre failures at a glance
Engineers’ findings from 1035 tyre segments retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 revealed:
• 56% of tyres failed due to road debris penetration
• 18% failed due to poor inflation
• 8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance
• 1% of tyres failed due to manufacturing defects
• 1% of tyres failed due to excessive heat
• 16% of the tyres couldn’t be specified to one particular problem
Economic cost of a 2-hour motorway delay following a 2-lane closure: £135,360
Economic cost of a 3-lane motorway closure lasting up to four hours: £1,488,960
Source: Highways England/Bridgestone/ Tyresafe
‘When considering that 32 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway road traffic accidents in 2016 due to illegal, defective or underinflated tyres, Bridgestone and Highways England say simple tyre checks save lives.’
The report also noted the economic as well as human cost calculating: ‘The cost to the economy from a two-hour delay on a busy stretch of motorway following a two-lane closure stands at £135,360 and a massive £1,488,960 for a three-lane closure lasting up to four hours.’
The report said some of debris samples were ‘particularly alarming’.
It cited a temporary space-saver spare tyre – designed only for short-term emergency use to get the driver safely to a garage after a puncture – which had been ‘run to destruction’.
It also highlighted a number of potentially lethal and illegal so called ‘string’ repairs of tyres which had been stitched together.
’These are completely unsuitable at any speed, let alone 70mph speeds on motorways’, it said.
Both Bridgestone and Highways England, the government quango charged with running and maintaining the country’s motorways and major A roads, are partners in the road safety charity Tyresafe.
They worked together to carry out the research over 18 months between the beginning of 2016 and last summer.
Highways England’s head of road safety Richard Leonard said: ‘England’s motorways are the safest in the world but we’re determined to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on them.
‘This important research confirms our view that road users must play a bigger role and get into the habit of checking tyre pressures and tread depths and looking out for nails and other debris stuck in tyres before setting out on journeys. These simple checks could save lives.’
Richard Leonard (pictured) said road users need to play a more active role by checking their own tyres
Highways England officers Mark Hindhaugh (left) and Mark Ratkovich (right) are pictured with Bridgestone’s field engineer Peter Moulding
Bridgestone technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw analysis of the debris with the firm’s field engineer Peter Moulding and technical department, added: ‘This report has taken a great deal of time and effort, involving a painstaking process of collecting tyre debris over 18 months and analysing it in depth.
‘Some simple tyre checks can save lives, not to mention reduce the risk of a stressful breakdown on a motorway.
‘With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programs, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable.’
The experts also advise that tyre pressure monitoring systems be retro-fitted to vehicles which don’t already have the technology. Mr Powell said: ‘It will assist with the detection of penetrations and deflation.’
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