Nearly three quarters of motorway incidents linked to tyre failure could be prevented if drivers would carry out simple tyre checks, according to research from Highways England and Bridgestone.

The 18-month study, carried out between 2016 and summer of 2017, suggests that road users can play a significant role in reducing tyre-related accidents by performing routine checks.

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “England’s motorways are the safest in the world but we’re determined to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on them.

“This important research confirms our view that road users must play a bigger role and get into the habit of checking tyre pressures and tread depths and looking out for nails and other debris stuck in tyres before setting out on journeys. These simple checks could save lives.”

During 2016, over 30 people were seriously injured or killed in motorway incidents due to ‘illegal, defective or underinflated’ tyres.

Throughout the project’s lifetime, Highways England staff collected over 1,000 examples of tyre debris from motorways in the West Midlands to be analysed by the technical engineering team at Bridgestone. The debris was taken from cars, vans, motorbikes and commercial vehicles.

Out of 1035 tyre segments collected from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 which were analysed by the Bridgestone team:

• 56% failed due to debris penetration

• 18% failed due to inadequate inflation

• 8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance

• 1% failed due to manufacturing defects

• 1% failed due to excessive heat

• 16% failed as a result of a combination of factors

The samples demonstrated issues with poor inflation or debris penetration in almost three quarters of cases. Notably, many of the listed reasons for failure are preventable with regular vehicle inspection and maintenance.

Under-inflation and poor vehicle maintenance standards together accounted for 26% of tyre failures in the sample.

Some alarming samples were flagged, including examples of tyres with ‘string repairs’ being used on the road (which are considered unsuitable for any speed of travel) as well as incidences of temporary spare tyres being used until dangerously unroadworthy.

Gary Powell, Bridgestone technical manager, said: “This report has taken a great deal of time and effort, involving a painstaking process of collecting tyre debris over 18 months and analysing it in depth thereafter.

“In conclusion, some simple tyre checks can save lives, not to mention reduce the risk of a stressful breakdown on a motorway.”