Fatal accidents caused by vehicle factors triple following the move to annual vehicle inspections

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227 people have died on our roads so far this year, up 26 from last year when lockdowns limited travel. Alcohol or drugs, failing to keep left, losing control and speeding are the top four causes of fatal and injury road crashes, according to the Ministry of Transport. However, 9% of fatal and injury crashes are related to vehicle factors.

Based on Transport Agency statistics published in 2018, worn tyres were directly responsible for 464 crashes. Over a three-year period, worn tyres have been implicated in 32 fatal accidents. The number of fatal accidents involving vehicle factors tripled in the five-year period to 2018. There is an interesting correlation between the rise in vehicle factors contributing to accidents and the reduction in WOF inspections from every six months to once a year for light vehicles registered after 1st January 2001.

Since 2014, light vehicles registered after this date are only required to be inspected annually. Arnel Service Centre owner Tony Arnel says “a lot of wear can occur on tyres in a year. At any given time, a tyre’s contact area with the road is the size of a palm print. That is not a lot of surfaces to slow the weight of a car. For a tyre to maintain its grip, it must have a sufficient amount of tread.”

Worn tyres affect a vehicle’s handling and responsiveness, this is amplified in wet conditions with the increased risk of aquaplaning. Aquaplaning happens on wet roads and occurs when a vehicle’s tyres lose traction with the road, making it impossible to steer or brake.

The NZTA analysed how much a tyre touches a wet road at different speeds. It was found that as a car travels faster, tyres become significantly less effective if the tread depth is inadequate. “When you look at how much a tyre is in contact with the road in 1 mm of water going at a speed of 90 km an hour, the difference between a new tyre and a worn tyre is incredible. A worn tyre has virtually no contact” says Tony.

It doesn’t take long to check tyres. You can check them yourself using a tyre depth check gauge, or head to a local car mechanic. Tyres are also checked as part of regular car service. If you’re in and around the Hamilton area, Arnel Service Centre’s automotive repairs Hamilton offer free tyre assessments. When it comes to tyre tread, it is better to tread carefully.