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It's back to school so it's time to check your tyres

Kwik Fit | Wednesday 6th September 2017 5:21pm

children running to school

It’s back to school, so it’s time to check your tyres

The very welcome break from the routine of rushed breakfasts and missing PE socks is coming to an end and most of us – our kids included – are actually looking forward to the new school year.

We’ll also see the return of kids making their way to and from school. And they’re more distracted than ever, with headphones, smartphones, social media apps, chatting, fooling around. In short, not paying enough attention to their surroundings or safety. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s something you can’t fail to notice. And nor should you.

So, for all of us road users the new school term gives us a chance to ask ourselves this key question: could I stop the car safely if a distracted kid stepped out in front of me?

It happened to me

Driving down a residential street near a local school one afternoon, I spotted two girls up ahead walking together, both about 11 years old and wearing earmuffs. Something about them made me think they might step out. Perhaps it was the way they were slightly veering towards the edge of the road, or maybe it was sixth sense on my part, because that’s exactly what they did. Suddenly and right in front of me.

Luckily for them, I was able to stop, but – despite driving slowly – it was only just in time. Very shocked, I realised I could have killed or seriously injured them both. It wouldn’t have been my fault, but that’s not the point. 

Stopping distance - why was I able to stop

Remember what you learned about stopping distances? The Highway Code tells us this consists of “thinking distance” – the time it takes for the driver to react – and “braking distance” – how far the car travels after the brakes have been applied until it stops. Braking distances – by the way – can double when it’s wet. So, yes, I was alert not only to the possibility, I also reacted quickly. But my car also came to a rapid halt, too. How so?

Tyre tread depth matters

Pioneered by engineers at premium tyre manufacturer Continental, tyre treads – or ‘grooves’ – expel road-surface water, so that the tyre itself can better grip the road. New tyres are very effective at this. Worn tyres are not.

Imagine two cars, both travelling at 50 mph. Car A has brand new tyres with 8mm treads, while Car B’s treads are just about legal, at 1.6mm. If both drivers brake at the same time, Car A will stop nearly 14 metres shorter than Car B – or three car lengths. Now imagine if a child is in Car B’s path… Learn more about tyre tread depth.

braking distance based on tyre tread depth

Tyre pressure – it matters

Too little air in your tyres destabilises your car’s handling which affects the tyres and their ability to grip. When tyres have too much air in them, the part of the tyre that touches the road is smaller, which means less gripping surface. Less grip means it takes longer to stop, whatever the weather. More about tyre pressures.

correct tyre pressure infographic

Quality tyres – also significant

Premium tyres are made from high quality rubber compositions which are more effective at gripping the road, thereby reducing stopping distances, especially in wet conditions. They give you a better chance of avoiding accidents.

So it’s simply worth paying more upfront for better quality tyres, which – thanks to the fact that they last longer – are in fact less expensive over time. More about premium vs budget tyres.

Ask an expert

As we start to see more children out on our streets, it’s very important to be super-vigilant and aware, but the quality of your tyres matter too. If you’re concerned about the quality or condition of your tyres pop down to your local Kwik Fit centre and our experts will look over your tyres. 

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