An Accurate Insight into the Danger of Tire Failure

In our fifteen years of operating in the field of safe driving, here in the USA, we have never seen any significant data on the dangers caused by tire failures or blow-outs, and yet there can be no doubt that, every year, many Americans are killed or severely injured by these events.

Photpgraph of the front tire on a pick-up truck.
Once a week — yes, week, not month — check the pressure in your tires against the pressures shown on the driver’s door post of your vehicle or in the handbook, NOT the *maximum* pressures shown on the sidewall of the tire itself.  Check the tread and sidewalls for any punctures or cuts, and of course enough tread depth.   (Is that white dot in the tyre tread on this photo just a bit of gravel, or is it the head of an embedded screw or nail?)   Copyright photo, 2018.

What follows is a press release from the British Government.  We apologise that it is not American but (a) there is apparently no equivalent, here in the States, and (b) this document can be guaranteed to be as accurate as any you will find on the subject.

Tyre-related deaths and injuries are preventable say Highways England and Bridgestone

Almost three quarters of [highway] incidents related to tyre failure could be prevented if drivers carry out simple checks, according to startling new research unveiled today (Tuesday, 24 April, 2018) by Highways England and tyre company Bridgestone.

More than 30 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway accidents [in Britain] in 2016 due to illegal or faulty tyres.  [ADoNA comment:  This is equivalent to more than 620 people in the USA, proportionate to overall annual road fatalities in the two countries.]

But an 18-month study says commuters, commercial drivers and other road users can do a lot more to help reduce accidents through regular checking.

Of course, it’s not just cars where tire condition needs to be monitored. Large tires bursting on big trucks can cause additional severe dangers if they come off the rim and start bouncing or rolling down the road. Even just bits of a truck tire, lying on the road, can pose a serious risk to motorcyclists. (Copyright image, 2015.)

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, 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.”

Unveiled today at the annual Commercial Vehicle Show at Birmingham’s NEC, the research reveals that almost three quarters of tyre failure samples analysed by Bridgestone involved poor inflation or debris penetration issues – problems which could be potentially avoided with better tyre husbandry.

Both Bridgestone and Highways England, the government company for operating, maintaining and improving the country’s motorways and major A roads, are partners in the multi-agency road safety charity Tyresafe. They worked together to carry out the research over 18 months between the beginning of 2016 and last summer.

During the project, staff working for Highways England at depots across the West Midlands provided more than 1,000 pieces of tyre debris from motorways to a technical engineering team from Bridgestone to analyse.

Tire Debris Infographic
Tire Debris Infographic.    The use of this image here is permitted as a part of the press release, available under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

The findings from 1035 tyre segments retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 revealed:
>> 56% of tyres failed due to road/yard debris penetration
>> 18% failed due to poor inflation
>> 8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance
>> 1% of tyres failed due to manufacturing defects
>> 1% of tyres failed due to excessive heat
>> 16% of the tyres couldn’t be specified to one particular problem

The tyre debris was taken from cars, vans, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, with under-inflation of tyres a key theme, along with poor vehicle maintenance, both of which accounted for 26% of the entire sample. When considering that 32 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway road traffic accidents in 2016 due to ‘illegal, defective or underinflated tyres’ Bridgestone and Highways England say simple tyre checks save lives.

In addition, the cost to the economy from a 2-hour delay on a busy stretch of motorway following a 2-lane closure stands at £135,360 and a massive £1,488,960 for a 3-lane closure lasting up to four hours .

Some of the samples were particularly alarming, with a temporary ‘space-saver’ spare tyre being run to destruction, while a number of potentially lethal and illegal ‘string’ repairs were also found on car tyres, which are completely unsuitable at any speed, let alone 70mph speeds on motorways.

Bridgestone technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw the analysis of the debris with field engineer Peter Moulding and the rest of the firm’s technical department, 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.
“With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programs, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable. In light of these results, we would also advise that tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are fitted to vehicles which don’t benefit from this technology already. It will assist with the detection of penetrations and deflations.”


Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

7 thoughts on “An Accurate Insight into the Danger of Tire Failure”

  1. I have investigated tire failures on commercial vehicles and private passenger vehicles (and a few other vehicles) for most of the 46 years I’ve been doing this work. Of the tires that were brought to me for failure analysis in which enough of the tire/rim/(etc. if applicable) was provided for me to conduct an analysis, the vast majority failed from some type of abuse (not necessarily deliberate) or from overdeflection, sometimes caused by a puncture and sometimes caused by neglect. And a few obviously failed AFTER loss of vehicle control occurred for some other reason.
    Very few of the failures I was able to thoroughly investigate failed due to manufacturing defects or mounting problems; it seems to me that, overall, reliability of manufactured pneumatic tires to be free from failure-inducing defects has increased over the years.

  2. I work with Police and Transport agencies in Asia, India, Africa and the Middle East providing technical reviews and training programs on enforcement and crash scene investigation techniques. Tyre failure is a significant problem in many of these countries and especially the Middle East. Most of these countries lack any scientific scene analysis as we understand it however, my work in Qatar has led to the Roads Authority developing a crash investigation team to look at their problems; tyre failure being one of the identified activities. One lives in hope a technical report will be forthcoming!!
    My observations over the years suggests the failure is invariably due to missuses of the tyre; wrong tyre choice (sand tyres used on roads), overloaded, underinflated, worn out and structural damage associated with prior impact.
    Where crash statistics are collected they often show high numbers of tyre failures on SUV’s or 4X4 vehicles being attributed as the cause of the crash; Middle east especially. Albeit the quality of much of the data is suspect it still suggests this class of vehicle, when travelling at speed, invariably result in loss of control and rollover (vault) with significant trauma to the occupants.
    I am always amazed that even in India the owner driver of the trucks knows about looking after their tyres to get the very last kilometre out of them while the general motoring public appear blissfully unaware.
    The technology in our current vehicle fleet; tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), would provide some excellent statistical data on which to base a scientific study of this problem. As advanced drivers we hope to be able to sense if a tyre starts to deflate and react accordingly. This poses a question do drivers immediately react to the activation of TPMS system? How many suspected tyre deflation incidents occurred where the TPMS system activated but the driver ignored the warning.

    1. Excellent comments, Mike. Thanks for posting them. (And perhaps if you do get any subsequent / follow-up data, you might kindly let us know and perhaps write a summary that can be added here, please?)

    2. Thanks for the comments Mike. I was recently visiting relatives in the UK, and hired a car. The vehicle was equipped with a TPMS which I became very thankful for. The TPMS alerted me to a low pressure tyre. After stopping, I could see a foreign object in the tread, but the tyre was not deflating too fast. Also there was no noticeable change in handling. I used the stop to locate a nearby tyre fitter, and got the puncture repaired within an hour. Without the TPMS I may not have noticed the problem for several hours and may have got stuck. Furthermore, there was not even a space saver tyre in the boot. I guess the task of wheel swaps is now in the hands of roadside assistance.

  3. Very useful and detailed article. I just wanted to add just two thoughts : as regards string repairs (as the ones found on cars travelling on motorway), I agree they should be only made temporarily in emergency situation but it might be not driver’s fault as I heard some unscrupolous mechanics or tire shops adopt this method to permanently “fix” tires without warning vehicle owner. Maybe this detail could be added to the article named “Don’t Trust Tire Shops or Car Mechanics to Put Correct Pressures in Your Tires”..
    As regards tyre pressure monitoring systems, yes they do improve safety but – according to many comments I read on the web – they cannot completely relied on so the good old “manual” check is not to be considered outdated yet !

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