Over 10M cars are being driven with an illegal tyre, research suggests

Report shows UK’s poor attitude towards tyre safety as 27 per cent of tyres are already illegal at replacement

Dangerous tyres are the largest single contributory factor in accidents resulting in casualties.

More than one-in-four of the 37 million cars and LCVs on our roads is being driven with an illegal tyre that could cost its driver a £2,500 fine and three penalty points, an MOT failure – or worse.

The findings were revealed following a Tyre Safe survey conducted in partnership with Highways England which studied 340,000 tyres as they were replaced at 819 outlets across the country.

The report highlights that tread depth has a “decisive impact” on the amount of distance a vehicle takes to stop in the wet, and must be of at least the minimum legal limit, 1.6mm.

Braking distance

Previous studies have shown that the braking distance of a vehicle with tread of 1.6mm is nearly 12m further than a vehicle with new tyres when braking in the wet from 50mph.

Stuart Jackson, Tyre Safe chairman, said: “Figures from the Department for Transport show that dangerous tyres are the largest single contributory factor in accidents resulting in casualties of any vehicle defect – including brakes.

“If the number of casualties from tyre-related incidents is to be reduced on our roads, the UK’s motorists need to change their attitude to this primary safety feature and carry out regular checks to ensure their vehicle’s tyres are roadworthy.

“The concern comes not just from the number of illegal tyres at the point of replacement, but also the proportion which were below 2mm – those with just 0.4mm left (half the thickness of a bank card) before reaching the 1.6mm legal minimum.

“While a tyre is legal at this point, the amount of distance it can cover and remain within the law is difficult to predict and can only be verified by regular checks.”

Results by city

City Illegal Illegal & under 2mm Tyres surveyed
Bristol 46 % 83% 5,546
Birmingham 42% 83% 8,111
Manchester 35% 65% 13,493
Cardiff 32% 65% 5,954
Cambridge 30% 80% 2,359
Liverpool 26% 68% 4,049
Leeds 24% 75% 2,359
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 21% 62% 6,106
Edinburgh 21% 74% 6,363
Greater London 14% 65% 9,023

The average proportion of illegal tyres at the point of replacement across the UK was 27.3 per cent but variances between the four home nations were also highlighted with Wales and Northern Ireland recording a higher proportion of illegal tyres.

Scotland’s results were on par with the UK average while England recorded the lowest proportion at 26.8 per cent.

The findings have also revealed that 70.4 per cent of tyres were illegal and below 2mm at the point of replacement, an increase of 4.4 per cent compared to last year’s tread depth survey by Tyre Safe.