WORN TYRES AND WET CONDITIONS

Gauteng is about to head into the rainy season and with it is sure to come accidents and long, aggrevating traffic delays. Let’s try to keep you and your family safe on the roads this summer….

Studies conducted by the AA Foundation for road safety in the United Kingdom show that the chance of having an accident with worn tyres is 7% higher in wet conditions than in dry and one can only image that this figure is even greater on South Africa roads.

These statistics are therefore of great concern, especially considering that the danger of driving with worn tyres is not publicised as much as other factors such as speed, fatigue or driving under the influence of alcohol.

Whether the road surface is wet or dry, the only contact a vehicle makes with a road is through the tyres. In wet conditions, the tyre is responsible for dissipating surface water. This is done through the tread pattern which channels water through the grooves of the tyres and pushes it away from the vehicle.

This may sound like a nice to have gimmick, but is actually vitally important. The less water on the road surface, the better the contact between the tyre and the road which means better grip and more traction.

When the tyre tread is too shallow to disperse water, the driver will have reduced control over the vehicle’s braking and steering, this leads to a loss of control known as aquaplaning or hydroplaning. Which is really just technical jargon for “you are going to hit that barrier / tree / other car and are powerless to stop it”!

If a tyre tread has a depth less than 1mm, the tyre needs to be replaced to ensure vehicle safety. This would also make your vehicle illegal. Most of us do not carry a tread depth gauge, but we do have options.

Firstly, most tyres have a built in Tread Wear Indicator (TWI). This is a raised bump in each tread groove which becomes visible when the tread has worn below acceptable levels. It normally indicates that there is 1.6mm of tread left on the tyre.

Secondly, there are tyre fitment outlets scattered across the country, filled with tyre experts who have the knowledge and equipment to check tread depth. So really, you have no excuse.

Remember, that even with 1.6mm of tread on the tyre, stopping distance is increased by a startling 36.8%, so ideally, tyres should be replaced as close to the 3mm threshold as possible.

Heed the dangers associated with worn tyres and please have your tyres checked on a regular basis.

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