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Highways England teams up with fire services to tackle road deaths

Patrick McDonnell
12 April 2018

A new partnership has been formed between Highways England staff and Firefighters Cheshire and Lancashire to help reduce deaths, injuries and incident-related congestion on the region’s roads.

In a national project being piloted in the North West, Highways England is working with fire and rescue services to offer free tyre safety checks and advice alongside a programme of fire station charity car washes. 

As part of the trial, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and The Fire Fighters Charity have allowed Highways England traffic officers and other staff to run the tyre checking service at several car wash events – with the latest being at Lancashire’s Fulwood fire station on 14 April.

Drivers attending the car wash events can get a free check on the quality of their tyres from 3D tyre tread checking scanners linked to an app on a smart device. The scanners allow a quick and easy way to check tyre tread levels and provide instant feedback and advice to motorists, via a print out.

Highways England is working to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on England’s motorways and major A roads by 40% by 2020 and says focusing on tyre safety can make an important contribution. 

Stuart Lovatt, Highways England’s road safety lead, said: “Highways England and fire and rescue services have a mutual interest in reducing the number of incidents caused by poorly-inflated or damaged tyres which could be picked up by simple and regular checks.

“The Fire Fighters Charity’s National Car Wash programme is now huge – involving some 20,000 vehicles across more than 600 events annually. We think it’s a great way of reaching out to potentially thousands of drivers to check their tyres for free and give them safety advice while they wait for their cars to be washed.”

Firefighters are among the emergency service workers called out to tyre-related incidents on the motorway and major A road network while Highways England traffic officers and colleagues have to manage the congestion caused by breakdowns, punctures and road traffic collisions.

Tony Crook, an area manager at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We attend over a thousand road traffic collisions each year and some of these could have been prevented if the vehicles involved were fitted with legal tyres.

“Our firefighters see first-hand the dangers of driving poorly-maintained vehicles and we hope that this new partnership with Highways England will result in preventing crashes and even saving lives.”

Watch manager Andy Gray, a road safety officer at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Tyre treads are designed to give good grip on wet roads. As the tread wears down the tyre loses the ability of good grip. It is essential that people regularly check their tyres. Many tyres only get checked at their yearly MOT inspection and then subsequently fail, resulting in a vehicle that could well have been driving with unsafe tyres for some time.

“This partnership not only benefits people immediately with the tyre checks but crews will show and educate them on how to check their tyres in the future. 

“The Fire Fighters Charity also benefits from the public’s kind donations from the car wash events. These are positive events where you can meet multiple partners who want to engage with you and help keep you safe on the roads.”

  • There were 80,000 tyre incidents on England’s network of motorways and major A roads between 2013 and 2015
  • Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to over 4,500 vehicle incidents between 2015 and 2017
  • Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 2,866 vehicle incidents over the same period
  • 27% of vehicles have at least one illegal tyre (Tyresafe 2016)
  • 40% of road traffic accidents caused by vehicle defects are tyre related (DfT 2015).

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