The impact of tyres on road safety

Good technical condition of tyres increases driving safety

Studies[1] proved that 36% of accidents are caused by the technical condition of the vehicle, of which 36.8% are related to the condition or adhesion of the tyres. Tyres – as the only element of the vehicle in contact with the road – have a direct impact on road safety and on car’s drivability. The right tyres shorten the braking distance, increase safety and reduce fuel consumption.

Good, trusty tyres right for given weather conditions, correct pressure, adequate tread depth, emergency equipment – these are the most important elements related to tyres, about which every driver should remember. Unfortunately, the European Commission's research proves that 28% of cars in Poland has problems with tyres[2].

 Even if our car has all the safety systems and sensors, they still get all the information from tyres. The condition of tyres – as the only element of the vehicle in contact with the road – is therefore key to our safety – says Piotr Sarnecki, general director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association.


Time for good pressure

Although the number of drivers who check tyre pressure once a month increases (44%), still 1/3 of them do it only once every six months[3]. This is a huge mistake – it is one of the most important parameters to ensure road safety. Low pressure means a much longer braking distance, but also a deterioration of the car and motorcycle's drivability, faster tyre wear and more frequent refuelling due to increased rolling resistance. Only 1/3 of the surveyed drivers declare checking tyre pressure every now and then when visiting a petrol station, and only 16% do so when changing tyres[4].

There is no optimal pressure value for every tyre of every vehicle. It is the car manufacturer that determines which value is suitable for a certain car or engine version. Drivers should check the tyre pressure at least once a month, on cold tyres or after driving no more than 2 km. This should be kept in mind especially in autumn and winter, when the low temperature significantly reduces the pressure level. Tyre pressure changes with fluctuations in temperature – by 0.2 bar at 0°C, 0.3 bar at -10°C and 0.4 bar at -20°C!

The right tread depth

The vast majority of respondents state that they can assess whether a tyre is not suitable for driving - 80% of respondents declare such knowledge, and when the answers are narrowed down only to people holding a driving license, the percentage increases to 89%[5]. Unfortunately, only 31% of respondents state that they know the minimum legal tread depth. The question about the indication of the minimum tread depth allowed by law shows that in this group there is very little knowledge about the subject. The Polish Law on Road Traffic clearly states that a vehicle cannot be equipped with tyres with a tread depth of less than 1.6 mm – only 17% of those surveyed were close to this value[6].

The minimum tread height is determined by the so-called wear indicators on the tyre. The lower the tread, the longer the braking distance and the worsen the ability of winter tyres to drain water and mud. In addition, at higher speeds, the phenomenon of aquaplaning may occur, i.e. loss of adhesion due to the formation of a water wedge between the tyre and the roadway.

Wise storage is the key to success

New tyres can be stored even for a few years - under proper conditions tyres will retain their good quality.  Operation is the main factor affecting the life of tyres, especially if it is incorrect – it has a significant impact on tyres’ parameters, performance and safety level of the traveling vehicle. Tyres prepared for storing are clean and dry, and their main enemies are UV radiation, ozone and sources of heat.

Appropriate tyres for each season

Only tyres designed for a given season guarantee greater grip and a shorter braking distance. The vast majority of respondents in the Moto Data 2018 survey declare that they change summer tyres to winter ones – that is 79% of drivers[7]. This is a slight increase compared to the Moto Data survey carried out in 2017 – then 76% of respondents declared a switch to winter tyres[8]. Other data –including data from auto shops – would suggest that only 60% of Polish drivers change from summer to winter tyres. It is therefore likely that a lot less people actually do switch to winter tyres. Thus, there is a considerable percentage of drivers in the country – around 30% – who drive on summer tyres and increase the risk of road accidents.

Labels – conscious choice

Tyre parameters are essential in their everyday use, as well as in difficult situations on the road. Only 18% of drivers know that since November 1, 2012, tyres sold in countries belonging to the European Union must come with appropriate labels[9]. This directive ensures that consumers have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the basic three tyre parameters prior to making a purchase and to compare the products during shopping – and these are:

The disregard of tyres and their condition can have tragic consequences on the road. Tyres are the second, and in cars with turbocharging the third fastest-rotating element of the car. According to ¾ of the surveyed drivers, brakes are the element of car’s equipment that has the most impact on driving safety, but it should be remembered that tyres transfer the power and strength of the car as well as the efficiency of the brakes onto the road. The right choice of tyres minimises the danger for all drivers and improves driving comfort – adds Piotr Sarnecki.

[1] Dekra Automobil GmbH studies in Germany

[2] European Commission, Study on some safety-related aspects of tyre use, December 2014

[3] Moto Data 2018 – Panel of car users, N=1000

[4] Kantar Millward Brown survey for the Polish Tyre Industry Association, Warsaw, June 2018

[5] Kantar Millward Brown survey for the Polish Tyre Industry Association, Warsaw, June 2018

[6] Kantar Millward Brown survey for the Polish Tyre Industry Association, Warsaw, June 2018

[7] Moto Data 2018 – Panel of car users, N=1000

[8] Moto Data 2017 – Panel of car users

[9] Kantar Millward Brown survey for the Polish Tyre Industry Association, Warsaw, June 2018

Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association