Students urged to study their tyres before heading off to university

The coming weeks will see many students taking the leap and driving off to university for the first time, or heading back after the long summer break. While a lot of time will have been spent ensuring that they have those all-important student necessities and making promises of regular calls and updates to Mum and Dad, a pre journey tyre check is often missed.

A recent survey by Highways England* has revealed six out of ten students will carry on driving while their vehicle is overloaded. When this maximum load is exceeded, it will be more difficult to control the vehicle, making an incident more likely. Vehicle manufacturers detail how much weight a car or van can carry in the owner’s handbook.

Overloading a vehicle also results in more weight being placed on the tyres than they were meant to carry. If tyres are already in poor condition, this additional stress may lead to an increased likelihood of sudden and catastrophic failure while driving.

Whether a vehicle is overloaded or not, all drivers should be paying close attention to the tyres’ air pressure. To accommodate extra weight, it’s likely the inflation settings will need to be increased. If the tyre pressure is incorrect for the load, it will increase wear, fuel consumption and the potential for an incident.

Carrying out routine checks before a long journey can mitigate many of the issues drivers can suffer. However, a TyreSafe survey revealed as many as one-in-three young drivers have never checked their tyres.

This TyreSafe checklist is easy to follow and can be printed off and left in the vehicle as a reminder:

  • Air Pressure – correct tyre pressures are shown on a sticker in your car's door shut, filler cap or in the owner's manual. Use an accurate pressure gauge to ensure they are right for the load as part of your pre-journey planning.
  • Condition – If stones or other objects caught between grooves in the tread can be removed without damaging the tyre, drivers are advised to do so. Bulges, cracks, cuts and embedded objects are cause for concern and need to be checked by a professional.
  • Tread – If you don’t have access to an accurate tread depth gauge, a 20p coin can be used to see if your tyres’ tread depths are approaching the 1.6mm minimum limit. Insert the 20p at several points across and around each tyre. If you can see the coins outer rim at any point the tyre may be illegal and you should seek advice from a professional.

Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe Chairman, said: “The journey to university can be a long drive in a vehicle crammed with all the luggage and personal items students need to see them through the term. While parents can help with a tyre check before they leave, it’s a good opportunity to make sure their children are capable of carrying them out themselves. The journey to university should be a fond memory for students, not a cause for stress, so ensure the vehicle’s tyres are roadworthy before you set off.”

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “We want everyone to get to their destination safely and we can all play a part in that. We know that this is an incredibly exciting time for students with many leaving home for the first time.

“Our traffic officers are there to help get things moving if there’s a problem. But we’d urge all students to make sure they load their car correctly before setting off as they could be endangering themselves and other road users.”

For more information on all aspects of tyre safety, visit

*Source: Highways England September 2019