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Tough times tough on tyre-buying – but don’t take chances

Economic pressure is making South African vehicle owners push their tyres much further than the safe threshold of their lifespan, leading to an increase in vehicle accidents. Dries Venter, technical manager at Bridgestone South Africa, explains how a multi-agency approach can help personal and business drivers make better decisions to save lives while keeping their costs down.

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Most car crashes in South Africa are caused by worn or damaged tyres, according to Bridgestone.

A bald and bold statement by the tyremaker but it’s supported by data that suggests over-worn tyres can compromise a passenger vehicle’s handling by as much as 33% and pose a higher risk of a tyre blowout.

This, combined with the dumping into South Africa of cheap tyre imports, badly maintained roads, and a culture of reckless driving spells disaster for thousands of road-users in a country with one of the world’s highest road-fatality rates.

The 2018 Easter holiday period recorded a particularly high toll of crashes; police arrested 1700 people for driving on worn tyres, cracking down on a trend that seems to be growing.

POOR ROADS TOUGH ON RUBBER

Law enforcement, Bridgestone said, routinely arrests drivers with smooth tyres because South African drivers are prone to running tyres to the very last shred of rubber before replacement. As new tyres become more and more expensive, people are more tempted to buy cheap imports or poor retreads.

While it’s meant a boost in tyre sales, the poor condition of some South African roads places a heavy burden on vehicle owners by them having to replace tyres more often – yet another cost-of-living expense in an already depressed economy.

Car crashes are the result of one (or all) of three main factors;

Driving behaviour, vehicle faults and poor road conditions: Each or all can contribute to poor tyre conditions in different ways. For instance, while a vehicle and road it travels on might both be in good condition, habitual harsh cornering, acceleration or braking can quickly shorten tyres’ life.

Conversely, as careful as a person might drive, unbalanced wheels will also wear tyres faster. The age of a tyre also affects how quickly it wears down – a vehicle that has been parked for a long time without being driven could also suffer faster tyre damage as rubber compounds in some brands break down over time.

Ensuring tyres are in the best condition, including checking for cracks, punctures and embedded nails, is one of a driver’s most important duties. We need to come to terms with the reality that a piece of rubber the width of the palm of a hand is the only thing that separates the vehicle from the fast-moving tarmac.

FEWER REPLACEMENTS

Buying tyre insurance to cover unforeseen incidents might provide some peace-of-mind, but this is not foolproof. An insurer could very well refute a claim for any number of reasons, including the quality of the tyre at the time of a claim. This means you could end up paying twice, first in accumulated insurance premiums and again for a new tyre.

A frustrated consumer base means fewer people replacing their tyres, even fewer getting tyre insurance, and the result is dangerous.

A multi-agency approach is needed, one involving the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the three levels of government, and the private sector, particularly tyre and the vehicle manufacturers. The task should be a combination of providing innovative solutions, products and infrastructure to ensure that people are informed and equipped to extend the viable life of their tyres – a simple goal but a complex challenge.

In terms of government infrastructure, major municipalities are doing well to respond to local road-condition complaints. Smaller towns, however, not so well. Additionally, the mandate of provincial and national government on our highways and main roads is often blurred.

CHASING A GOAL

The RTMC states its main objective is to “eliminate the fragmentation of responsibilities for all aspects of road traffic management across the various levels of government” in South Africa.

In working with the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA and interested parties such as tyremakers and the news media, the RTMC can better achieve its goal of making South African roads safer.

Consumer education, improved road maintenance, stricter law enforcement and protection initiatives such as Bridgestone’s free ‘Tyre Damage Guarantee’, can go a long way towards helping people to prolong the life and quality of their tyres.

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