ABU DHABI // The number of people killed in accidents caused by burst tyres is on the increase, according to figures from the Abu Dhabi traffic police.
There were 41 accidents caused by blown tyres during the first half of this year, compared with 30 during the same period last year. Thirteen people died as a result of those accidents compared with 10 last year. The number of injuries nearly tripled in the same period, from six to 17.
A recent study carried out by an international tyre manufacturer suggested that the increasing number of incidents could be attributed to drivers' negligence in regularly checking their tyres.
The Bridgestone study, which surveyed 5,133 drivers in the GCC, showed that a quarter of drivers in the region did not check their tyres monthly, the recommended interval.
Drivers in Kuwait (63 per cent) and the UAE (about 68 per cent) were least likely to conduct tyre checks, while drivers in Muscat were the most likely to do so, with 87 per cent checking their tyres every month. Nearly a third of respondents in the UAE checked their tyres only every three months.
Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a road safety expert in Abu Dhabi, said drivers should have their tyres checked even more often. He said checks were needed at least once a week in the summer, especially for those who drive long distances. In cooler weather monthly checks were sufficient.
"There is a higher probability for a tyre to burst during the summer," he said. "And the tyres should be checked by professionals, not just the drivers themselves."
The survey's regional results were far worse than those in Japan, where one out of two people said they checked their tyres monthly, said Kentaro Hara, the general manager of consumer tyre marketing at Bridgestone Middle East and Africa.
"Each vehicle has its own specifications," he said. "So before purchasing tyres, you should check your vehicle's users manual in order to make sure you buy a suitable tyre."
The two major things to look for when checking tyres are tread depth and air pressure. The tread is the part of the tyre that touches the ground and provides traction. Nearly half of those surveyed in Dubai and 41 per cent in Abu Dhabi said they did not know what a tread wear indicator was.
"If the treads are worn out, it could affect your braking," Mr Hara said.
Air pressure, he said, was the second-most important factor. A tyre with low air pressure is more likely to burst, especially in warm climates.
"The tyre expands in hot weather," he said. "So if the air pressure is low, more heat is generated. The tyre then cannot handle the heat, so it bursts. An excess of air pressure is also just as dangerous."
Tyres should be checked for any cracks or damage, which can increase the likelihood of a malfunction, Mr Hara said. Other factors motorists should look for are the tyres' maximum load and speed capacity, which vary depending on the type. A tyre for a Honda Civic, for example, has a load capacity of 615kg, making the vehicle's total load capacity 2,460kg. It is unsafe to have tyres with a low load capacity on a heavy car.
In the event of a burst tyre, Dr Zineddin suggested keeping both hands on the wheel and slowly reducing speed.
"This is another reason why motorists shouldn't speed," he said. "Because there's much less chance that a driver will be able to control the vehicle in an emergency."
All tyres imported into the UAE are GCC certified and must be manufactured to accommodate the country's hot climate, Mr Hara said.
In June, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology announced it was working closely with the Ministry of Interior to review the tyre regulations. A task force comprising the country's largest tyre suppliers and manufacturers has been assembled to look at the technical aspects of the regulations. The proposed regulations on the manufacture, handling, and storage of tyres, will be presented to the Cabinet next month for approval.
How to handle a burst tyre
• Do not slam on the brakes or move the steering wheel.
• Immediately release the accelerator and gradually apply the brakes to slow down and stop the vehicle while holding the steering wheel straight.
• Do not forget to indicate when changing lane towards the safe side of the road – move the steering wheel slowly and gently, and put on the hazard lights.