Bald tires are more dangerous than drunk driving, a study has claimed, leading to hundreds and thousands of unsafe cars on the roads.
According to Cardiff University researchers, legal tires could have seven times the impact on stopping distance as driving under the influence of alcohol.
The study showed that a car traveling at 70mph in wet weather at the legal tread limit of 1.6mm would travel an extra 89ft before stopping – about seven car lengths.
By contrast, someone driving at around the blood alcohol limit would add an extra 12.4ft in terms of thinking distance because of slowed reaction times.
Graham Stapleton, head of motoring business Halfords, said safety standards needed to be tightened and warned “millions of motorists” were at risk. He said there were “vast numbers” of cars on the road at or below this limit.
In the last year, Halfords said more than 100,000 cars passed an MOT with their tires just above the required standard. Cars could be just a “pothole away from becoming illegal” as a result, Mr Stapleton warned.
The tires may not be checked before their next MOT a year later, meaning they could fall well below 1.6mm in the meantime.
“Every year we advise huge numbers of UK motorists their tires are dangerously low on tread,” Mr Stapleton added.
“Unfortunately many drive away assuming that, if they’re legal, they must be fine. The reality is that their safety is already significantly compromised and this will only increase as they experience more wear.”
Mr Stapleton called on the Government to increase safety standards, arguing that the Cardiff University study “clearly demonstrated” that tread limits were “just too low given how much grip is reduced”.
He added: “We need to get a grip on tire safety. The current legal limit for tire tread depth is too low and it’s putting millions of motorists at risk.”