1.5 Million UK Drivers Risk Fines of £10,000 and Disqualification Due to Balding Tyres

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In the past year, more than 1.5m UK drivers have risked disqualification and fines of up to £10,000 each by knowingly driving with illegally insufficient tyre tread depth, research by car insurance provider swiftcover.com has revealed.

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-    1.5 million drivers knowingly use defective tyres, risking their own and others’ lives

  •     Two thirds of drivers (71 per cent) don’t know the legal tyre tread depth, risking fines of up to £2,500 per tyre and even disqualification
  •     Only one in ten (13 per cent) drivers are aware of the risks of driving with insufficient tyre tread depth
  •     One third (36 per cent) never check their tyre tread depth

In the past year, more than 1.5m UK drivers have risked disqualification and fines of up to £10,000 each by knowingly driving with illegally insufficient tyre tread depth, research by car insurance provider swiftcover.com has revealed.

Driving with balding tyres – those with less than 1.6mm of tread on standard cars – carries a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points per tyre, meaning that a driver with four illegal tyres could face a £10,000 fine and twelve penalty points, leading to a driving ban and therefore a raise in your car insurance when they can drive again. Not only are these drivers risking lives, but by not meeting minimum safety requirements they are potentially forfeiting their insurance cover if involved in an accident.

However, only 13 per cent of drivers are aware of the heavy penalties, and more than two thirds (71 per cent) don’t even know what the minimum legal tread depth is (1.6mm). Despite severe consequences, an estimated 1.5 million drivers admit to having driven with insufficient tread depth in the last year, risking total fines of up to £15 billion.

Drivers were most likely to knowingly drive with insufficient tread depth in Bristol (13 per cent) and Cardiff (12 per cent), whereas motorists in Nottingham claimed to be the most scrupulous, with none admitting to having driven with insufficient tread depth.

More than one third of UK drivers (36 per cent) never check their tyre tread depth, rising to 42 per cent among women and more than half (52 per cent) among those aged under 24.

Robin Reames, chief claims officer at swiftcover.com, commented: “It’s worrying that drivers are leaving themselves open to serious accidents as well as fines of up to £10,000 and disqualification by not checking their tyres for basic wear and tear. If you need a simple way to check your tread depth use a 20p coin. The border of a 20p coin is around 2.5mm wide so you can use one to make sure that your tyres are comfortably within the legal limit.

“The reason for minimum tyre requirements is simple: legal tyres grip better, and allow drivers to brake more quickly. Driving on bald tyres is extremely dangerous, especially in wet conditions, so motorists should take five minutes to check their tyres (and indeed the rest of their cars) at regular intervals.”

UK TYRE REQUIREMENTS
Tyres used in the UK need to comply with many requirements, but drivers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their tyres are safe. They must meet the following criteria:
The legal minimum tread depth for cars and light trailers is 1.6mm throughout the central three quarters of the tyre width
Tyres must not have a cut which is longer than 25mm or 10 per cent of the tyre’s width
Tyres must not have any lump or bulge caused by separation or partial failure of the tyre’s structure
The penalty for driving using tyres that don’t meet the criteria above is £2,500 and 3 penalty points per tyre.

Notes to Editors

Research carried out among a nationally representative sample of 1,356 motorists in the UK by Opinion Matters in March 2012.

For press enquiries please contact:
Luke O’Mahony or Sean Williams
Brazil (PR agency for swiftcover.com)
020 7785 7383
swiftcover(at)agencybrazil(dot)com

About Swiftcover:
Based in Cobham, Surrey and employing more than 1,000 people, swiftcover.com started trading in June 2005 and was born out of a desire to revolutionise the general insurance market by making insurance quick and easy to use.

swiftcover.com offers car, home, travel and pet insurance online, and is the only insurance provider in Britain not to use call centre’s, which provides cost savings that can be passed directly onto the customer, keeping premiums low. swiftcover.com was named Best Value for Money Car Insurer in the UK in the 2010 Lovemoney.com awards.

This powerful operating model combined with successful marketing and competitive pricing has proven to be a tremendous success. In 2008 swiftcover.com achieved over half a million live policies and in May 2009 sold its millionth policy. swiftcover.com is considered to be one of the fastest-growing online insurance providers in the UK and, as of February 2011, has more than 800,000 policy holders.

In 2007, AXA UK acquired swiftcover.com. It is now a wholly owned subsidiary of AXA Insurance UK PLC which forms part of AXA Group.

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Luke O'Mahoney
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