Europe is Definitely Under Pressure
Anyone involved in the tire industry, whatever part of the world you live in, knows and understands that tire pressure is an extremely important issue when it comes to safe driving. However, try telling that to the average European driver who, it seems from recent market surveys, completely ignores the dangers of driving on under-inflated tires.
Several tire and automotive specialists have recently carried out their own private investigation by setting up free tire pressure checks for motorists at motorway (highway) service centres and the results have proved astonishing and extremely worrying. It seems that the reports clearly indicate that at least 25% of drivers (one in four) are driving around on at least one seriously under-inflated tire.
The lowest tire pressure taken that I am aware of was just 6 psi as opposed to the standard and safe limit of 30 psi. I recently spoke to one of the organizers of the surveys and was informed that literally “thousands” of readings that had been taken were pretty shocking and reveal the true extent of tire neglect in Europe. Many deaths and thousands of serious accidents each year throughout Europe are being directly connected to poorly inflated (a soft word to use) or defective tires.
It also is interesting to note that European government statistics unofficially reveal that 6% of all motorway accidents are directly caused by under-inflated tires. In fact, I have recently learned that the situation is considered so alarming that several leading tire manufacturers have become involved in a growing European campaign to make drivers aware of the dangers of under-inflated tires.
For example, Michelin Groupe has recently carried out a yearlong study and its research has revealed that at least 50% of European drivers have under-inflated tires which are dangerous and at risk of causing an accident. The survey also revealed that as many as a shocking 80% of vehicles were being driven on incorrect tire pressures.
At the same time I am informed that Bridgestone Corp. also has carried out its own survey involving thousands of free tire safety checks which revealed that the number of motorists driving on under-inflated and illegal tires had risen annually in recent years. Bridgestone and indeed Michelin have both stated that in their opinion the main reason this alarming deterioration in motorists driving on what are effectively illegal and highly dangerous tires is the continuing financial uncertainty throughout Europe.
Although some European countries indicate encouraging signs of fiscal recovery, others are definitely still suffering and many motorists continue to disregard the condition of their vehicle’s tires purely for financial reasons.
I am convinced that the main reason that some European drivers continue to completely ignore the danger they are putting themselves and their families in by not attending to their tires on a regular basis is because they do not want to spend money on tires. Although it is understandable that they feel putting food on the table is more important than the condition of their car, it is critical that the importance of tire pressure in a vehicle is recognized.
In my opinion an extensive European-based promotional campaign urgently needs to be introduced in all European countries to explain the extreme dangers of driving on seriously under-inflated tires and to encourage the practice of regular tire pressure checks when fuelling up with petrol or diesel. To be honest, like everywhere else in the world, motorists consider tires to be an unnecessary expenditure when they need replacing due to wear which explains why so many people will just continue driving around on totally dangerous tires.
Just to add to the situation it is worth noting that a staggering 3.9 billion liters of fuel is wasted each year due to under-inflated tires. Plus they cause an additional 9.2 tons of carbon dioxide to be emitted into the atmosphere each year. At the moment in Europe although there is a lot of statistics flying around — no urgent action seems to be taking place and I wonder just how serious the problem of under-inflated tires is going to have to get before new law enforcing legislation is introduced. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for more than 23 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services, which caters to business media clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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