When it comes to offering advice to new or first-time parents, everyone has words of wisdom to speed mums and dads towards a blissful time with baby. From sleep routines to feeding, pushchairs to car child seats, the parenting tips come think and fast. But it’s rare that those who mean well would ever advise checking your car’s tyres.
However, that’s the message to proud parents across the nation, as a safety campaign gets under way, aimed at parents of the 695,000 babies born in England and Wales each year. It suggests that checking the condition of car tyres is just as critical as making sure babies are taken home from hospital in an appropriate child seat if travelling by car.
The campaign, led by TyreSafe, a not-for-profit organisation which promotes safe driving, points to evidence that suggests as many as one in four newborn babies may travel home in a car with illegal or dangerous tyres.
Last July, TyreSafe and Highways England coordinated research with more than 800 tyre fitting outlets. They checked the condition of more than 100,000 tyres at the time they were replaced, and recorded their condition. More than 27 per cent were found to be below the legal 1.6mm tread depth, making them dangerous to use. It’s the equivalent of 10 million tyres on Britain’s cars.
Mum-to-be has lucky escape after tyre bursts
One mum-to-be found out just how critical the condition of tyres can be to the safety of drivers and passengers. Last August, Janine McCarthy, a 25-year old from Torquay, Devon, had a miraculous escape after a tyre on her car burst, causing the car to crash into a central reservation and then roll over six times.
Janine, who was nearly three months pregnant at the time, told TyreSafe how she thought she and her unborn baby were going to die: “It was terrifying. Witnesses told me afterwards that the car smashed into the barrier, flew to the opposite barrier, and then rolled down into the middle of a field.
“I recall my arms being crossed in front of my face and the airbag going off. I felt dizzy and remember thinking ‘this is it, I’m going to die’.”
Janine had a miraculous escape, and happily, after undergoing checks at hospital, her and her baby were declared fine. Now she urges all drivers to check the condition and air pressure of their car’s tyres. “I was lucky. But defective and illegal tyres can ruin lives. As new mums-to-be, we pack our hospital bags with everything we need and check our baby car seats – but we need to add ‘check tyres’ to our pre-baby checklist.”
Tyres determine how quickly a car can stop, how securely it can grip the road around corners and how stable the car remains when driving through standing water. The latter is especially significant, given that the Met Office declared last December the wettest on record.
Stuart Jackson, chairman of TyreSafe, claims: “Tyres are one of the primary safety features on any vehicle and if they’re not roadworthy the car can easily become uncontrollable.”
With so much to remember when a new baby is expected, it’s understandable some things are forgotten, but drivers should add check tyres to their checklist. Watch this TyreSafe video for a quick guide to carrying out simple tyre checks that could prevent an accident.
Expert advice: Looking after car tyres