Only one quarter of drivers can correctly state the legal minimum tread depth for a car tyre in the UK. A new study for Kwik Fit, the county’s largest automotive servicing and repair company, reveals that just 27% of British motorists were able to identify the legal minimum as 1.6mm.
Some 10 million drivers (30%) could not state a figure at all, admitting they didn’t know, but perhaps more worryingly are the one in five (19%) motorists who think the legal limit is below 1.6mm. Over a third of a million drivers believe that the minimum is 0.5mm, less than a third of the actual figure.
In the most extreme finding of the study, the research revealed that 24,000 drivers have reached the age of 35 not realising there is a legal minimum tyre tread depth at all.
On average, younger drivers were most likely to state the correct legal limit, suggesting that those who have passed their test most recently are more aware of the rules on tyre tread. 43% of drivers aged 18-24 know that the limit is 1.6mm, compared with 27% for all drivers.
Overall, the average figure stated by the nation’s drivers is 1.9mm which, although incorrect, is reassuring in that it errs on the side of caution compared to the law. In fact, this figure is close to the 2mm tread depth at which many experts recommend drivers change their tyres, as the wet weather performance of most tyres deteriorates well before they get to the legal limit.
Although younger drivers appear to have better knowledge of when their tyres need changing, many of them lack the skills which could prevent them from being stranded at the roadside in an emergency. Almost two in five drivers (38%) aged 18-34 admit that if they had a flat tyre they would not know how to change over to the spare or use an emergency repair kit.
Female drivers are most likely to need assistance if they get a puncture – 57% say they could not change to the spare or use an emergency repair kit, compared to just 12% of male motorists.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, says: “These findings show the importance of drivers of all ages having both the motoring knowledge and skills when it comes to the key aspects of their car. It is vital that drivers know when their tyres are illegal and unsafe – not least because they could be stopped and fined for driving with tyres that have tread depths under 1.6mm. It’s also crucial that drivers are able to change their tyres in an emergency. A puncture can occur at any time, and often in the most inconvenient locations, so if drivers are able to change their own tyre and get on their way, they are likely to be able to save themselves a lot of hassle.”
Kwik Fit holds free events at its centres across the country to help drivers learn basic motor maintenance skills. Motorists wishing to attend such an event, or set one up for a community group, school or college, should contact their local centre in the first instance or visit the Kwik Fit website at www.kwik-fit.com.