Under-inflated tyres can be killers on our roads

Sowetan Reporter

Sowetan Reporter

l Two out of ten cars on flat tyres;

l Holiday-makers warned to check tyre pressures at coast;

l Real-time checks on hot tar the safest option;

South Africa's leading road safety organisations warned that under-inflated tyres can - again - be deadly this holiday season.

With up to 13percent of road accidents linked to burst tyres, both South Africa's Road Safety Foundation and ER24 paramedics will use real-time tyre pressure sensors while patrolling the dangerous Van Reenen's pass during the long weekend.

"Drivers must remember that their tyres slowly deflate as they travel from the Highveld to the denser air pressures of coastal regions," said Gideon Joubert, distributor of the Tyredog pressure sensors.

"Regular checks on cool tyres are not always possible on long journeys, which is why we recommend real-time pressure sensors, especially for Gauteng drivers using the N3 to KwaZulu-Natal.

"The sad fact is that at least two out of ten of these drivers will use this road on dangerously flat tyres," said Joubert.

He cited a recent survey by the Road Safety Foundation that showed that almost 20percent of randomly tested vehicles in Gauteng are driving on one or more tyres that are under-inflated. The Bridgestone-sponsored survey formed part of a global road safety campaign, "Think Before You Drive" that tested tyre pressures in corporate parking lots.

Co-founder of the Road Safety Foundation, Phillip Hull, said 19percent of the cars tested were riding on one or more tyres pumped to less than 1,8 bar, while 4percent of vehicles had tyres that were dangerously deflated at levels below 1,5 bar.

Hull, whose foundation won the 2008 Nedbank-Car magazine award for SA's best road safety initiative, said 1,8 bar was definitely "hazardous" while 1,5 bar was "extremely hazardous".

"The scariest part is that under-inflated tyres seem to be properly inflated and many drivers still consider a kick against such tyre a sufficient safety check," said Hull.

He said that the Road Safety Foundation was testing the latest generation real-time tyre pressure sensors with the view that such devices should become cheaply available for all types of vehicles in South Africa.

Joubert, who supplied the affordable Tyredog sensors to both the Road Safety Foundation and ER24 paramedics working on Van Reenen's pass, said three generations of tyre sensors were on sale in South Africa, ranging from limited ABS-type sensors, to costly rim-mounted devices.

In the USA, all vehicles must have tyre pressure sensors to promote safer driving. The latest sensors show tyre pressures and temperatures in real-time and will warn of any changes," he said.

He explained that tyres don't actually burst, but slowly disintegrate when they run too warm - and the damage is accumulative.

"The sidewalls of a tyre are built up in layers - like a jersey. If you break out one stitch, you can unravel the whole garment."