Experts demand major new driving laws with millions at risk of fines

Halfords demonstrate how to check and inflate your car tyres

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New research found that cars with worn but legal tyres take almost 90 feet longer to stop than vehicles with tyres in good condition when travelling at 70mph. This is the length of around seven cars or one basketball court – which could have disastrous consequences for road users.

The study showed that the difference in stopping distance between tyres with 4mm of tread and worn tyres with just 1.6mm tread (in the same wet, winter driving conditions) is a huge 36 percent – which equates to an additional 89ft. 

The legal minimum amount of tread in the UK is 1.6mm, meaning a car with this level of tread is technically legal and would pass an MOT, despite its tyre performance already being significantly compromised. 

Many may not be checked again until their next MOT, by which time they are likely to be far below the legal limit, with stopping performance compromised even more.

The data was conducted by Professor Peter Wells of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University and commissioned by Halfords.

The legal tyre tread is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, with the tread having to have this minimum requirement across its complete circumference.

Following the revelations, the CEO of Halfords is now urging the Government to rethink the law to help protect drivers from facing danger on the roads.

Graham Stapleton added: “We need to get a grip on tyre safety. The current legal limit for tyre tread depth is too low and it’s putting millions of motorists at risk.

“Every year we advise huge numbers of UK motorists that their tyres are dangerously low on tread, but unfortunately many drive away assuming that, if they’re legal, they must be fine.

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“But the reality is that their safety is already significantly compromised, and this will only increase as they experience more wear.”

Halfords last year saw in excess of 100,000 motorists chose not to replace their tyres after they received a warning during their MOT.

These warnings state that the tyres – whilst technically still legal – were approaching the legal limit of 1.6mm, and should be changed as they were likely to fall below this before their next MOT. 

This suggests that there are vast numbers of vehicles on UK roads with tyres at or below the 1.6mm limit.

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To highlight the issue, Halfords asked Cardiff University to compare the stopping distance of worn tyres to another factor that can increase stopping distance – drink driving. 

It found that remarkably, driving with worn tyres increases additional stopping distance seven times as much as being under the influence of alcohol.

The in-depth study, which analysed a raft of evidence on the subject, found that on average, consuming alcohol (around the legal driving limit of 0.08 mg/litre) increases reaction time by 18 percent or 120 milliseconds. 

At 70mph, this would lead to an increased stopping distance of 12.4 feet – far less than added by worn tyres.

Mr Stapleton continued, saying: “Any tyres that receive a warning are likely to be illegal with just a few thousand more miles of motoring. 

“A tyre with just 1.6mm of tread could be one small lock up or pothole away from being illegal and this could even happen on the way back from the test centre, but the tyres may not be checked again until their next MOT. 

“This study clearly demonstrates that current tread limits are just too low given how much grip is reduced, even when within legal limits.”

A tyre which is deemed to be “too worn” will face a fine of £2,500, with any vehicle having all four tyres being illegal facing a £10,000 fine.

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