An 18-month study analysing tyre debris found more than 30 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway accidents in 2016 due to illegal or faulty tyres. Almost three-quarters of tyre samples analysed by the research team found poor inflation or debris penetration issues as the leading causes.
The results of the study carried out by Bridgestone and Highways England, the government company for operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads, found drivers can decrease their chances of ending up in an accident by conducting regular tyre safety check-ups.
“These simple checks could save lives,” Richard Leonard of Highways England says, “[T]his 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 [...] debris stuck in tyres before setting out on journeys.”
During the project, staff working for Highways England at depots across the West Midlands provided more than 1,000 pieces of tyre debris from motorways to a technical engineering team from Bridgestone to analyse. The findings from 1,035 tyre segments retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 revealed:
Underinflated tyres proved to be a key culprit, along with poor vehicle maintenance, accounting for 26% of the entire sample. Some of the samples were particularly alarming, as researchers found a “space-saver” tyre was run to destruction and a number of illegal “string” repairs, which are potentially lethal at 70 mph speeds.
Bridgestone technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw the analysis of the debris with field engineer Peter Moulding and the rest of the firm’s technical department, said:
“With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programmes, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable. In light of these results, we would also advise for tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) should be added to those vehicles which don’t yet have the technology. It will assist with the detection of penetrations and deflations.”
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