Driving blind on ‘duff’ tires

June 14, 2013

As we all know throughout the world a great deal of skill goes into the manufacture of modern car tires followed by extensive marketing and sales promotions to encourage drivers to buy a particular brand.

However in Europe at least, all this dedication to perfection seems to be going to waste as current statistics reveal that an alarming amount of drivers blatantly fail to maintain their tires in a road worthy condition (we call these  tires “duff,” or “rubbish”). In fact, a recent survey by Bridgestone Corp. (which carries out an annual poll) has revealed that a staggering 78% of European motorists drive on under-inflated tires which is an 11% increase on the 2011 poll.

At the same time, one in four drivers (25%) openly drive around on tires with a tread depth below the legal limit. Again this is a 20% increase on the 2011 poll.

These incredible facts are based on the results of over 28,000 free roadside tire safety checks carried out during the course of last year and taking the two findings on under-inflated and illegally worn tires into account. This represent a very worrying 25% collective increase within 12 months.

The most prominent reason given for this total lack of regular tire maintenance is the on-going European economic crisis plus secondary causes such as rising fuel prices and fewer cars being sold. However, it is common knowledge in the industry that under-inflated or worn tires are both extremely dangerous and uneconomical as they compromise vehicle safety through decreased stability, lack of steering response and increased braking distances. As well as losing billions of liters of wasted fuel, the under-inflated and worn tires are increasing CO2 output of almost 10 million tons a year. The difficult task seems to be getting this important message across to the average motorist throughout Europe.

Unfortunately in Europe (and probably around the world), motorists have this negative image of tires as these “black and round lumps of rubber” that are a hindrance rather than an essential part of a car.

From long-term experience in travelling around Europe, I know that most tire fast fit and garage outlets do their best to encourage their customers to look after their tires on a regular basis with internal promotional posters and by offering free checks.

But the message is just not getting across and, in my opinion, never will while it is kept at such a low key level.


National television should become involved with a hard-hitting nationwide campaign across the whole of Europe explaining in graphic detail the importance of checking your tires for damage, irregular wear or worn tread every time a motorist stops in for fuel. Of course these procedures take time although probably only a couple of minutes and that is where the problem lies as these days people just do not or will not afford the time to carry out such important checks. We now live in a fast-moving, modern world in Europe where to most people every minute of the day counts.

Another obstacle to such a massive TV awareness campaign is the cost as such a high profile project especially in the current times of austerity in Europe. The truth is everybody agrees that there needs to be more awareness to tire maintenance but nobody is prepared to actually invest in making it happen. Not tire safety associations, manufacturers, wholesalers or indeed retailers.

Perhaps the police should become more involved and not only seek to prosecute drivers found to be driving on dangerous tires but also place more emphasis on the dangers of poor tires.

The police federations throughout Europe seem to go to great lengths to educate motorists on the dangers of drunk/drugged driving and using a mobile phone while driving, so perhaps it would help if the same effort was placed on faulty tires.

Taking these latest statistics into account, it does not look like the situation is going to improve any time soon and drivers will only realize and appreciate the dangers of running on poorly maintained tires when they are involved in an accident that could have been avoided with good quality tires.    ■

 John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own company, Sapphire Media Services, as a business media consultant with clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.