A fifth of drivers are putting themselves, fellow road users and pedestrians in danger by driving on unsafe tyres, a study by Confused.com has found.
The price comparison site found 21 per cent of drivers have at least one tyre with a tread below the recommended limit of 3mm, with three per cent having tyres under the legal limit of 1.6mm.
Edinburgh was perhaps the riskiest place of all, with 27 per cent of drivers on the city’s roads with at least one tyre below 3mm, although the city’s tally of four per cent with a tyre under 1.6mm was beaten by Newcastle and Ipswich with five per cent.
Manchester was just behind Edinburgh, with four per cent having a tread depth below 1.6mm and 26 per cent falling below 3mm.
Birmingham had some contrasting figures, with 23 per cent having a tread below 3 mm, but none falling below 1.6mm.
London had the best record for 3mm tread tyres, with only 16 per cent falling short, a percentage point better than Leeds.
The causes of this danger are not confined to deliberate carelessness. Confused.com noted that further research has shown 61 per cent of motorists do not actually know the minimum legal tread depth. In addition, 55 per cent do not know how to check their tyres.
A simple way to do it is to use a 20p piece and wedge it into the grooves. If the outer band is still visible the tread may be illegal and the tyre needs changing.
Not only does this mean drivers have less grip on the roads and are thus more at risk of accident, but if they do end up involved in an incident, the involvement of bald tyres could invalidate the insurance policy. This can also cause a car to fail its MOT.
Confused.com’s motoring editor Amanda Stretton said it is “worrying” that so many drivers are on the roads with bald tyres.
She added: “Tyre tread ignorance could land offenders with fines of up to £2,500 per tyre, invalidate their insurance or lead to an accident.”
Ellie Baker, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “Bald tyres can be more of a problem than people think. Do the 20p test regularly to ensure you don’t break the law.”