It had been a very pleasant Sunday afternoon. For some reason the sun was shining, the car boot sale had delivered an impressive haul of booty that fulfilled every stereotype imaginable (two boys – toy cars, the wife – two pairs of shoes, me – a 1988 Commodore Amiga) for the princely sum of £8 and everyone was happy. As we strolled back to the field that was supposed to be for parking but was actually used for vehicular abandonment, my nerdy eye spotted something I’ve been seeing a bit too often recently – a very bald tyre.
Not on my car of course. Being that self-confessed nerd I wouldn’t let such a thing happen. I start getting twitchy when the wear markers between the treads are close enough to touch. It was on the reasonably worn Peugeot 407 Estate parked next to us. And when I say worn, I mean worn out. It was way past dubious, sailed clearly through the point marked legal and settled on downright dangerous. I wondered whether to leave a note, and also whether such a helpful bit of advice would be met by some burly bloke who was big enough and daft enough to make his own descisions about tyre wear thank you very much.
While I was pondering and my wife was wondering exactly why I was staring into space, the owner of the Peugeot arrived back at her car. Probably old enough to know better, she got in and began to reverse out, and as she paused to select first I noticed a child’s car seat in the back. That was reason enough as far as I was concerned.
I walked up to the open passenger window and asked in the politest and most non-confrontational tone I could muster if she knew that she had a bald front tyre. “No I didn’t” came the friendly and receptive reply. I wondered if she’d noticed why it took three quarters of a mile to stop from 30mph in the wet. “It’s really quite bad, definitely illegal and that’s three points if you get caught” I said. I wanted to avoid giving a lecture and tried to frame it in a legal way to inject a sense of urgency. She thanked me and promised to get it looked at before driving off.
Of course, what I wanted to say was that with a tyre in that condition she was putting her own life, that of her family and other road users at a huge risk. Stopping distances increase dramatically with worn tyres. Research by Continental tyres has shown that tyres with less than 3mm of tread have dramatically reduced grip, never mind something approaching a racing slick. In wet weather a worn tyre is much more susceptible to aquaplanning, and as anyone who has experienced it will know, once that happens you just have to sit back and wait for the grip to come back.
We all have a responsibility to drive in a manner that keeps our own safe and is mindful of other road users, but arguably there is an even greater requirement to ensure that our cars are fit for purpose too. There may be a wide range of driving abilities on the road but the one relative constant is the ability and safety of the modern car. It’s our greatest safety asset and is therefore worth keeping that way.
By Matt Joy