Economic pressure is making South African motorists 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.
A little-known fact is that the vast majority of car crashes in South Africa are caused by worn or damaged tyres. Tyres in poor condition compromise passenger vehicle handling by as much as 33% and pose a higher risk of tyre bursts and explosions.
This, combined with the dumping of cheap tyre imports into the country, as well as bad roads and a culture of reckless driving spells disaster for millions of road users in a country with one of the highest road fatality rates in the world.
In the 2018 Easter period, a particularly high period of road accidents and crashes, the police arrested around 1700 people for driving vehicles with worn tyres, cracking down on a trend that seems to be growing. Law enforcement routinely arrests motorists with smooth tyres, as South African consumers are unfortunately prone to running their tyres to the very last shred of rubber before buying new ones. As new tyres become more and more expensive, consumers are then tempted to buy cheap imports or poorly re-treaded tyres.
While it’s meant a boost in tyre sales, the poor condition of some South African roads places a heavy burden on motorists, who have to replace tyres more often – yet another cost of living expense in an already depressed economy.
Car crashes are the result of one or more of three main factors; driver behaviour, vehicle faults and poor road conditions. All these factors 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 the tyre lifespan.
Conversely, as careful as a motorist might drive, unbalanced tyre wheels will also wear tyres down 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 nails imbedded on the side walls, is one of a motorist’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.
Buying tyre insurance to cover unforeseen incidents might provide some peace of mind, but this is not fool proof. 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 motorists could end up paying twice, firstly in accumulated insurance premiums and then again for a new tyre, which can send the bill into the thousands.
A frustrated consumer base means less people replacing their tyres, even fewer people getting tyre insurance and as a result, higher risks on the road.
In order to ensure safer roads, a multiagency approach needs to be undertaken, 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, the major metropolitan municipalities are doing well to respond to local road condition complaints, but in smaller or more remote municipalities, response times might be delayed. Additionally, the mandate of provincial and national Government on our highways and main roads is often blurred.
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 South Africa (Naamsa) and interested parties such as tyre manufactures and 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 in helping consumers prolong the lifespan and quality of tyres on the road, easing their living cost burden while saving lives.