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Faulty car tyres are four times more dangerous than drunk driving

Faulty tyres contribute to an estimated 7,500 deaths or serious injuries on our roads, according to a new Halfords survey

A shocking 25 per cent of cars on UK roads could be driving with one or more potentially dangerous tyre faults, according to data from a survey of 1,500 vehicles parked at Gatwick, Edinburgh and Manchester airports.

The survey, carried out in the last few weeks by Halfords tyre technicians, checked over 6,000 tyres on a random selection of cars in long-stay airport parking. It was found that over a quarter of cars had at least one tyre that was dangerously worn or damaged, requiring immediate replacement.

As a result of its research, Halfords now estimates that 7,500 deaths and serious injuries on UK roads have faulty tyres as a contributory factor - that’s 50 times more than official statistics suggest, and suggests that in terms of injuries and fatalities, faulty tyres are four times more dangerous than drink driving. In total, 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on UK roads annually.

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“More than one in four cars are driving on death-trap tyres, and the new government will need to take action to prevent carnage on the roads,” says Graham Stapleton, Halfords chief executive, following what the company is calling “the UK’s largest ever tyre census”.

“This is the deadly legacy of the cost-of-living crisis,” says Stapleton. “The tyre replacement cycle is a long way behind where it was prior to the pandemic as people continue to struggle with household bills. People are making tough choices about how they spend their money and unfortunately, road safety is taking a back seat.”

Lack of visible roads policing is another potential factor behind the high number of people risking driving on faulty and illegal tyres. Graham suggests that “stretched” police forces lack even basic equipment to identify tyre defects when they attend accidents, meaning dangerous tyres aren’t captured by official statistics - the most recent government figures show that fewer than 150 deaths or serious injuries were caused by tyre defects. 

Halfords, which owns the Autocentres garage business, has committed to donating tyre tread depth gauges to UK police forces with a view to getting one in every patrol car in the country.

Stapleton also wants a new government to get tougher on the problem through awareness campaigns and tougher enforcement.

“We have a farcical situation right now whereby a vehicle can come into a garage, be found to have illegal tyres or brakes, and yet there is nothing to stop it from being driven away,” he says.

“One solution would be for all garages to be mandated to upload registration numbers of offending vehicles to the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system used by police forces.”

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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