Manufacturer Silence About Tread Depth Dangers Criticised
The continued lack of public recognition some UK based tyre manufacturers give to wet condition grip performance in tyres with a tread depth below 3mm has been criticised by the chairman of the NTDA’s Tyre Wholesalers Group. Ashley Croft told a gathering of senior managers from the UK tyre industry that: “At the time of the 3mm campaign launch, one of the reasons given for non-involvement from a particular manufacturer was the potential for flagging-up a Duty of Care issue in the USA on the basis that it should have been aware of the wet grip performance drop off prior to this, and should have alerted the public accordingly.
“Today we see Michelin North America appealing a $32.4 million award to an individual who sadly was paralysed as the result of an accident in a vehicle that skidded on a wet road, after new tyres had been fitted to the front of the vehicle instead of to the rear.
“The court placed responsibility upon the tyre manufacturer, as they determined that it had not adequately informed all tyre retailers of the increased danger of fitting new tyres to the front. One can only question how soon before we read of a tyre manufacturer in a US court for not advising consumers of the performance drop-off of tyres worn below the 3mm level”.
Mr Croft noted in his speech that Consumer Reports magazine in the US has now added its voice to what it refers to as “the growing international call for a 4/32nds (3.175mm) minimum tread depth level”, and that Norwich Union in the UK promoted 3mm recommended minimum safe tread depth in its support of this October’s Tyre Safety Month.
In early December two UK based road safety organisations, BRAKE and the roadside breakdown company Green Flag, both added their support for an increase in tread depth laws to 3mm largely based on the safety benefits that such a change would deliver.
Surveys previously carried out by the NTDA indicate that 50 per cent of tyres on the road are at the 3mm level or below, and article in AutoExpress magazine revealed that 67 per cent of vehicles were fitted with one or more tyres worn to this level. Government statistics from 2004 show that, of the 98,845 serious and fatal injuries that occurred in wet conditions, 20 per cent involved vehicles skidding.
Mr. Croft welcomed the proposed EC Regulation changes requiring labelling and markings grading rolling resistance and wet grip performance, but added that a further wet grip performance measurement at e.g. 2.5mm should also be included. Such grading, it was said, would then enable consumers to make a more informed choice at the point of tyre purchase.