Get a grip – check your tyres to tread safely

PUBLISHED: 11:18 06 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:18 06 October 2014

You can check whether your tyres have a legal amount of tread with a simple test using a 20p coin.

You can check whether your tyres have a legal amount of tread with a simple test using a 20p coin.


Nearly three-quarters of UK drivers are potentially unprepared for heavy rainfall this winter and at an increased risk of being involved in an accident, according to a survey carried out for October’s Tyre Safety Month.

Tyre safety campaign group TyreSafe found that just 27% of drivers claimed that they had checked their tread depth in the last month, the maximum period recommended between checks, and one in five said they never checked.

Stuart Jackson, chairman of the not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of tyre maintenance and the dangers of defective and worn tyres, said: “Without adequate tyre tread depth, your car may be unable to cope properly in wet conditions, causing problems such as longer stopping distances, loss of grip and even an increased risk of aquaplaning.

“Last winter was the wettest ever on record and it’s essential that motorists check their tread depth at least once a month to ensure they can cope with any similar weather which we may experience again this year.”

Current UK law requires car tyres to have a minimum 1.6mm of tread depth yet more than a quarter of those questioned thought the legal limit was less than this. Underlining the level of ignorance regarding tyre safety laws, more than 80% of respondents were unaware that the maximum possible fine for driving on an illegal tyre with insufficient tread depth is £2,500.

Most drivers (80%) were aware of aquaplaning, a dangerous situation caused by lack of tread depth on wet roads, where the car’s tyres lose contact with the road surface, leaving the driver without control. However, more than half of drivers stated that they would react in a manner that would either make matters worse or have no effect on an aquaplaning car, such as pressing the brake to slow down.

“Avoiding wet weather problems, such as aquaplaning, can be easily achieved by regularly checking your tyre tread depth,” he said. “It’s a very simple and quick job to do your yourself – all you need is a 20p coin, or alternatively you can visit one of the thousands of garages and tyre retailers around the country who are offering free tyre safety checks as part of October’s Tyre Safety Month.”

Place a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of the tyre and, if the outer band of the coin is obscured when inserted, the tread depth is above the legal minimum limit. If the outer band is visible when inserted the tyre may be unsafe or illegal and should be checked by a tyre professional. When checking tread depth, check at least three locations around each tyre.

For more information about tyre safety or outlets offering free checks visit

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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