Calls for greater enforcement of tyre-related penalty point legislation

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High number of cars being driven on illegal tyres

Despite the introduction of penalty points for tyre safety three years ago, it appears that a significant number of Irish motorists are continuing to drive on illegal or unsafe tyres.

The issue is being exacerbated by an apparent low level of enforcement of the legislation. Continental Tyres estimates that some 350,000 Irish cars have illegally low tread depth, but only 450 drivers have been penalised in the three years since the legislation came into effect.

The company also cites numerous instances of drivers refusing to replace seriously damaged or worn tyres even when the risks associated with such tyres are pointed out by their dealers.

Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland says given the crucial impact on safety that tyre conditions have, the low level of enforcement of tyre related penalty points is very concerning.

“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 of 1.6mm. 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”.

Putting the low enforcement rate in perspective, those 450 drivers who have received penalty points for driving on tyres that have less than 1.6mm of tread depth average out at only 13 cars per month.

In comparison the first two months of 2019 saw nearly 5,000 notices for mobile phone use.

Tom Dennigan is calling for greater enforcement of the tyre penalty points legislation.

“In common with road safety campaigners across the country, we welcomed the introduction of the tyre safety penalty point regime. However, if the measures are not enforced, we are missing a huge opportunity to improve road safety”.

A ticking time bomb is how Barry Monaghan of Donegal Tyres in Donegal town describes many of the tyres he sees on cars coming into his depot. “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. In spite of us pointing out the danger of driving on such dangerous tyres, in many cases the driver opts to take their chances. Such cars, to me, are ticking time bombs, you don’t know when or where a seriously worn or damaged tyre will fail”.

John Whelan who runs JW Tyres in Carlow town, agrees: “Day in, day out, we are seeing cars at our depot on seriously damaged or worn tyres below the legal 1.6mm of 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 do not 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”.