Young, carefree and clueless about tires!

Jan. 6, 2014

Last month I covered the overall condition of tires being sold in Europe, so for this edition of MTD I want to look at the people who buy them -- yes drivers, and in particular the younger generation.

A recent survey in the UK by the AA, a leading breakdown service specialist, revealed that around 20% of drivers neglect the overall condition of their cars, including tires. A questionnaire to all its 21,000-plus members confirmed that 8% never have their cars serviced and as many as 30% miss important annual servicing schedules.

Even more alarmingly, tires with most European drivers was considered to be a convenient and easy way of saving money with around 23% admitting to switching from premium to budget brands as they are cheaper.

At the same time around 13% have let their tires wear down to below the legal limit rather than replace them at a more healthy and safe minimum of 2 mm of tread. Finally, 5% (one in 20 drivers) now regularly fit part-worn rather than new tires on their vehicles, again to bring down the cost.

However, the overall attitude toward the importance of tires gets even worse when you concentrate the issue on young drivers.

The European media is always reporting on the high percentage of drivers under the age of 25 who are involved in fatal accidents, so it is hardly surprising to learn that another recent survey by a tire safety association reveals that “maintenance-neglecting” young drivers are at a much greater risk of being involved in a tire-related accident than more mature drivers.

The survey also states that a third of drivers aged between 18 and 25 years have never actually checked the tread depth of their tires while around a quarter confessed they had never checked tire pressures either.  Almost 50% admitted they did not know how to check their tire's condition while a staggering 57% confessed to not knowing that legal tires were a driver’s responsibility.

Believe it or not – a massive 85% of young drivers were shocked to discover that the maximum fine imposed for driving on an illegal tire is £ 2,500 (U.S. $ 4,022) with a third totally unaware they could also receive three penalty points on their licence for the offence.

It is quite obvious that the strong message of regular basic tire maintenance is absolutely essential to being a safe and responsible driver. However, it seems to be completely lost on the young European drivers of today.

It is a disturbing fact that in 2012 there was a significant increase in the number of tire-related road casualties and there is no doubt that unless immediate action is taken in educating young drivers on the need to look after their tires, then we can only expect this alarming figure to continue rising. If you add into the mix the discovery that almost half of all young drivers on passing their driving test are never shown by a professional how to check the condition and maintain their tires, it’s very clear that the European tire market along with traffic police has a potentially serious problem on its hands.

In fact, I have been made aware that a growing number of tire manufacturers, retailers and tire safety associations are painfully aware of the urgent need for advanced tire education not just for young drivers but all ages.

Let's hope they can come up with a sensible and logical solution to the problem and as soon as possible. Otherwise more people of all ages are destined to have accidents, some fatal, on Europe's increasingly congested roads as a direct result of tire maintenance neglect.

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.

To read more European Notebook articles, see:

An age of indecision over new tires

All-season vs. winter tires

Tire inflation wars!