Survey reveals a third of new drivers have never checked their tyres

Nearly a third of motorists (32%) surveyed by FirstCar, the one-stop-shop for learner and newly qualified drivers, have never checked the tyre tread depths on the car they drive most regularly.

A quarter also incorrectly believe the car’s owner is responsible for the tyres being safe and legal, and not the driver.

FirstCar surveyed more than 1,000 drivers who had recently passed their driving theory or practical test in a major study of young driver attitudes towards tyre safety, in conjunction with Arval, ATS Euromaster and Michelin.

The survey found the most common reason for not checking tread depths – critical for providing grip on wet roads – was not knowing how to (42%), believing it to be someone else’s job (37%) or being too busy (18%). Yet encouragingly, 82% recognised the minimum legal tread depth as being 1.6mm.

It was a similar picture for tyre pressures, where under-inflation can cause irregular or unpredictable handling and increase the risk of a dangerous rapid tyre deflation. 29% confessed to having never checked their pressures, because they didn’t know how to (45%), believed it was someone else’s job (33%) or didn’t have time (18%).

Positively, more than half (55%) check their tyre pressures at least once a month, as recommended by Michelin. But 13% admitted only checking pressures if the tyres look low on air, and 11% if someone tells them to.

Tracey Fuller, UK Head of CSR for Arval, says: “It’s encouraging to hear most new drivers knew the 1.6mm tread depth limit, but as an industry and a society as a whole we clearly need to do more to educate new drivers about who is responsible for tyre safety, when tyres should be checked and how to do it.”

Whilst 96% of those surveyed recognised that tyre condition was either ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for road safety, only 49% knew the tread depth limit applies across the central three-quarters of the tread width and round the tyre’s entire circumference – with one in four (26%) either not sure or with an understanding which could be dangerous.

Matthew Slay, National Account Manager at tyre and vehicle maintenance provider ATS Euromaster, says: “Around half (47%) of respondents said they owned a car, so it was disappointing to see less than a third had checked their tyre tread depths themselves.

“ATS Euromaster offers a free tyre health check, but we would also encourage drivers to gain these skills for themselves. Anyone who is at all unsure can drop in and ask for a demonstration; we’ll gladly show them.”

Peter Wood, Key Account Manager at Michelin UK added: “Young drivers must realise that tyre safety is their own responsibility – but everyone involved in the industry, and society as a whole, has a responsibility: to give learner and newly-qualified drivers clear and accurate advice and information at every opportunity.

“ATS Euromaster, Arval and Michelin are committed to ensuring that those messages are reinforced to all motorists on a regular basis.”

The online survey was promoted in FirstCar Theory magazine, which is distributed to all drivers after they have completed their theory test, and in FirstCar Practical, which is shared through test centres and driver schools after a driver has taken their practical test. 1,090 drivers took part in the survey, with the most popular age categories being ‘under 20’ (52%) and ‘20-25’ (24%). Future issues will include a handy ‘how-to’ guide for performing basic tyre checks, and further information will be shared via the FirstCar website.