5 June 2019

350,000 Irish cars have illegally low tyre tread depth

The low level of enforcement of tyre-related penalty points across the country, given the crucial impact on safety that tyre condition can have, has been criticised by Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland, writes Trish Whelan.

Some 350,000 Irish cars are estimated to have illegally low tread depth, but only 450 drivers have been penalised over three years.

The new penalty point regime for tyre safety came into force in May 2016 and research examined by Continental Tyres since then shows only 3,260 tyre penalty notices have been issued, an average of just 90 per month. Compare this with nearly 5,000 notices for mobile phone use in just the first two months of 2019 and the safety implications for road users are concerning.

Over the three years, some 450 drivers have received penalty points for driving on tyres that have less than 1.6mm of tread depth (the legal limit). This equates to an average of 13 cars per month.

Tom Dennigan
Mr Dennigan added: “Continental Tyres own studies of tread depth levels consistently show that on average one in six cars on Irish roads are driving on at least one tyre with a tread depth below the minimum legal level. That would equate to approximately 350,000 cars that are illegally driving on dangerously worn tyres. This is backed up by what we are hearing from our tyre dealer customers around the country.”

John Whelan, who runs JW Tyres in Carlow town, said: “Day in, day out, we are seeing cars at our depot on seriously damaged or worn tyres below the legal tread depth. We do our best to explain to the driver how unsafe bald or damaged tyres can be - you don’t know when one will cause a blowout. But sometimes the driver is adamant that they don’t want to, or can’t afford to replace the tyre. Bottom line is that there are many, many more cars out there on illegal tyres than reflected in the penalty point statistics.”

At the other end of the country, Barry Monaghan of Donegal Tyres in Donegal town also commented on the number of dangerous tyres that he sees on cars coming into his depot. “We are also seeing a high number of cars on tyres that would fall foul of the tyre-related penalty points if a Garda checked them. On occasion, a driver will ask for a puncture repair on one tyre while two or three of the tyres on the car could be below the 1.6mm legal tread depth and, in spite of us pointing out the danger of driving on such dangerous tyres, in many cases the driver opts to take their changes. Such cars, to me, are ticking time bombs, you don’t know when or where a seriously worn or damaged tyre will fail.”

Tom Dennigan concluded: “If the measures are not enforced, we are missing a huge opportunity to improve road safety.”