Crash investigator reveals illegal tyre consequences


25thFeb09Shaun McKeown has a job not many of us would relish. As a Forensic Vehicle Examiner for Cumbria Police Collision Investigation Unit, he attends serious and fatal collisions across the county. It’s Shaun’s job to gather evidence from the vehicles to help determine the cause of the crash. Often, he also attends the Magistrates, Crown and subsequently Coroners Court to provide evidence should a vehicle defect be related the cause of the collision.

It’s not a pleasant job, by any standards. It’s one Shaun would rather not have to do. But if his work can help prevent other families from going through the pain and devastation of losing a loved one in a collision, he’s happy to do itz

Not surprisingly, Shaun’s passionate about vehicle safety and a staunch supporter of TyreSafe, the UK’s leading tyre safety organisation.
In his experience, where tyres are concerned, it’s just not worth taking a risk

“All the incidents I attend are serious and sadly, sometimes fatal. One that will always stick in my mind is the case of a young nurse who suffered fatal head injuries as a result of a rear tyre deflating.

“She’d lost control of her car on a bend, hit another vehicle and been killed instantly.”

Shaun found the car’s wheel rim had been damaged and the fault gone unnoticed, leading to the tyre slowly deflating. When the driver had taken a bend, the under-inflated tyre had induced a loss of grip causing the driver to over-compensate with her steering and once grip took effect again, the steering input caused the vehicle to travel across the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

At the inquest, the coroner said the tragedy underlined the need for a warning to motorists about the vital need for regular tyre safety checks and urged drivers to check their cars.

Despite the warnings, a few months later Shaun attended a crash in which a 17-year-old driver and his teenage passenger had both been killed. Tragically, that incident was also the result of defective tyres.

“We found the car had two worn tyres on the rear and had skidded in standing water. Unfortunately, the vehicle slid into the path of a HGV,” he says.

“These cases are devastating for the families involved and we urge drivers to do all they can to prevent them.

“It’s such an easy thing to do a visible check on your tyres as a matter of routine, maybe when you’re washing the car on a Sunday morning.

“For example, you can use the TyreSafe 20p test to check the tread depth

“If you’re not confident in checking them yourself or have any concerns, most garages will inspect the tyres for free.”

Shaun, who has three young children, admits he’ll be paranoid about checking their cars when they start to drive.

But he wants to protect drivers, and particularly young motorists, now.

“We find young drivers will happily spend time improving the look or performance of their car but then fail to spend any time checking their tyres which puts their lives and those of other road users in danger.”

Each year, dozens of people are killed and hundreds are seriously injured as a result of an accident caused by illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres. With the harsh winter weather now with us, TyreSafe is encouraging drivers to make sure they have adequate tread depth

If drivers do not have sufficient tread depth, they are more likely to be involved in an accident as stopping distances are much longer, grip is lost and the risk of aquaplaning is increased. Drivers also face fines of up to £2500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.

During this year’s tyre safety month, TyreSafe gave drivers a quick and easy way to check the legality of their tyres using a 20p coin. In fact, it’s so simple, an adult could do it!

“With many cold wet days ahead of us over the winter, I can guarantee there will be many more drivers who’ve lost control as a result of driving around on worn or damaged tyres,” says Shaun. “Don’t take the risk. If you had my job, you’d be out on the drive checking them now.”

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