Drivers Must Act Now To Avoid Danger Of October Roads

October is the wettest month of the year and one in 10 motorist are risking their lives by driving with inadequate tyre tread, says road safety organisation, RoadSafe1, who is calling on motorists to ‘tread safely’ during the dangerous Autumn period.

Although the legal tread depth limit is 1.6mm, a threshold set by motoring experts some 13 years ago, RoadSafe says there is now compelling evidence that motorists should check and change their tyres at 3mm. Wet road surfaces are one of the biggest threats UK drivers face, and October is officially the year’s wettest month, witnessing 148.5mm of rainfall in 2004 compared to a yearly average of just 99.5mm2.

Recent tests by MIRA Ltd (formerly the Motor Industry Research Association) found that cars travelling at 50mph in wet conditions and running on tyres with the legal minimum 1.6mm tread depth took almost an entire bus length (8 metres) longer to stop at 50mph than those with a 3mm tread depth. With 75,000 road accidents attributed to bad weather conditions each year, changing tyres when the tread depth has worn down to 3mm, instead of 1.6mm, could be the difference between life and death. This is a view shared by several car manufacturers who suggest that tyre performance and safety margins decrease significantly once tread depth reaches 3mm, owing to a reduction in grip and an increased rise of aquaplaning.

Tread Safely Awareness Week will take place from Monday 3rd October until Sunday 9th October 2005 in a bid to warn motorists of the dangers associated with deteriorating tyre tread in adverse weather. The campaign is encouraging drivers to maintain a minimum 3mm tyre tread depth and free tyre inspections will be offered at tyre fitting centres across the UK for the duration of the week.

Motorists can check where their local centre is by visiting the website where full details of the campaign are available.

3mm Tread Safely information leaflets, produced in conjunction with RoSPA, are available from all National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) members, a list of which appears at . The leaflet includes a handy credit card sized tyre tread checker which allows drivers to check their tyres independently.

"Braking performance significantly deteriorates in wet conditions when tyre tread depth drops below 3mm. Although the legal tread depth limit is 1.6mm, a threshold set by motoring experts some 13 years ago, there is now compelling evidence that motorists should check and change their tyres at 3mm. Maintaining a minimum tread depth of 3mm will help reduce the number of accidents on UK roads", says RoadSafe’s chairman, Adrian Walsh.

"There has been a long-standing belief within the motoring industry that wet weather tyre performance deteriorates more rapidly as the tread depth wears away. A comprehensive test of different vehicles and tyre tread depths now scientifically confirms these claims," says MIRA’s senior engineer, Simon Aldworth, who carried out the research into tyre wet grip performance at the organisation’s headquarters in Nuneaton.

"With 300,000 road accidents taking place every year and a climate which is now much more susceptible to heavy rain, there is the need to take action," concludes Adrian Walsh. "If motorists replaced their tyres sooner stopping distances would improve, the number of accidents would be reduced and lives would be saved."

RoSPA, which is also lending its support to the campaign, is advising motorists of a four point tyre health check to help increase driver safety:

  • Every two weeks check the pressure of your tyres when they are cold.
  • Check the tread depth of your tyres. Although the minimum legal UK tread depth is 1.6mm, RoSPA recommends that tyres should be replaced when the tread depth reaches 3mm. As the depth decreases, stopping distances in wet weather will increase. This is more notable on cars with larger wheels and wider tyres.
  • Check tyres for damage. Look out for any cuts, cracks or bulges as these can lead to slow punctures and blowouts.
  • Finally, don’t forget to check the pressure and tread depth of your spare tyre.

Further information on the 3mm Tread Safely campaign and footage from the MIRA test track can be found at

3 October 2005 Staff

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