Proper maintenance against road accidents
Summer is back and so is Vacanze Sicure (Safe Holidays), a road safety and tire care program, promoted by Pneumatici Sotto Controllo (Tires under control): 10,000 spot-checks carried out between April 20 and May 31 by the Traffic Police in Abruzzo, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Molise, Veneto and Umbria
About nine people die each day on our roads, while hundreds are seriously and often permanently injured. Numbers comparable to a war bulletin, explained Fabio Bertolotti, director of Assogomma (Association of Rubber Industries Electrical Cables): "the number of road accident victims exceed those of any war we normally hear about in the media". In addition to priceless human lives, there is also an economic side to the matter: according to the Ministry of Transport, each fatal accident costs our country 1.4 million euro, while each of the more than 200,000 permanent injuries generate an average expenditure of around 100,000 euro. Therefore, lack of adequate road safety weights on the national budget for 17 to 20 billion euro each year.
Countering the effects of this phenomenon over the last two decades has always been the mission of Pneumatici Sotto Controllo, a program created by the joint efforts of Assogomma and Federpneus (National Association of Tire specialists). Over the years, Pneumatici Sotto Controllo launched periodic campaigns with the purpose of raising the level of awareness on the issue and inform and train consumers, specialized retailers along with the institutions about the key role played by tires in promoting road safety. Among the various initiatives one stands out: Vacanze Sicure (Safe Holidays). Now in its fifteenth year, the 2018 edition kicked off on April 20th, that is to say, just five days after the end of the period in which the use of winter tires is mandatory in compliance to provincial regulations, from November 15th to April 15th. Thanks to a long standing collaboration with the Traffic Police department, Vacanze Sicure 2018 has the main goal of investigating the general condition of tires in circulation throughout the country and sensitize motorists about the need of proper tire care and regular seasonal tire change. Until May 31, the Traffic Police carried out about 10,000 spot-checks in seven regions: Abruzzo, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Molise, Veneto and Umbria.
As every year, about 250 officers have been involved in a training program, which included five hours of theoretical preparation as well as delivering the educational material and technical equipment necessary to carry out the program’s spot-checks. Thereafter, patrols were sent into the field to check the condition of tires: tread wear, tire approvals, whether the tires mounted on vehicles correspond to what is reported in the vehicle registration document, possible cuts, abrasions and any other damage visible to the naked eye as well as under-inflated tires, all things that could likely lead to a sudden structural failure. The collected data will then be analyzed according to a consolidated model by the Polytechnic University of Turin, and the results will be presented during a press conference to be held in July.
A productive collaboration
In fifteen years, under the aegis of Vacanze Sicure, over 1.5 million spot-checks have been performer and thousands of police officers were trained, thus strengthening the long standing collaboration between Pneumatici Sotto Controllo and the Traffic Police in a joint fight against negligence. The program has contributed over the years to raise the public’s awareness on the importance of a correct tire maintenance program as well as individual sensitivity towards the issue - the data, in fact, show decreasing percentages of vehicles circulating with unsuitable tires -. Furthermore, this collaboration brought to light illegal practices as far as storage and sale of non-approved tires or, more recently, the alteration of tire markings and re-grooving – not to be confused with retreading - (which is allowed only on tires suitable for this purpose and intended for heavy duty vehicles, and never on car tires). "We have repeatedly reported all the odd or downright illegal practices we detected in the sector and have always received assurance of continued support by the Police as well as the intention to carry out an increasing number of spot-checks on the market - confirms Fabio Bertolotti, director of Assogomma -. In this sense, we also collaborate with the Guardia di Finanza (Italian law enforcement agency under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance) and the Customs Agency. The tire care issue is particularly felt by the traffic police".
A confirmation of this came from a further initiative, carried out by the Traffic Police, to perform additional spot-checks to the ones provided for in the Safe Holidays campaign. "To the 10,000 inspections carried out during the 2018 campaign, we have to add an additional 10,000 made by the Police last February, plus as many scheduled for next October, at the end of the summer season and shortly before the seasonal tire change", states the Director of Assogomma.
"Thanks to this program, road users are constantly warned about the importance of proper tire care and well planned maintenance, since travelling with tires in good condition is crucial to guarantee road safety, - explains Giovanni Busacca, director of the traffic police department -. Driving with smooth, damaged, non-compliant tires, exposes drivers to a high risk of road accidents, besides being a highly irresponsible behaviour, which reflects on road traffic as a whole, of which we are all an integral part. Unfortunately, spot-checks confirm that there are still many vehicles that are not complying with current regulations. The tools we have to counteract this dangerous trend and ensure road safety are, targeted information, prevention, frequent and timely inspections as well as a cultural approach to the issue of "lawfulness on the streets". It is important to make it clear that it is not only a matter of avoiding traffic tickets, but that our safety and that of others is also at stake".
A good habit
Looking after our tires and replacing them not just before winter comes but also when temperatures start rising again is the best practice. However, not everyone seems to share this view, as stressed by the director of Assogomma: " some tire dealers complain that, at the end of the winter season, around 15% of the tires are not replaced for the summer period". The striking thing, as Bertolotti explains, is that it is not a matter of costs, more likely in the case of buying a new set of tires, but of laziness and non-awareness of the negative consequences this might have. "There is no such a thing as a tire capable of offering the best performance in all possible climatic conditions - explains Bertolotti -. The tire is a crucial component as far as safety is concerned. It is no coincidence, therefore, that just as for brakes and seat belts the penalties for circulating with non-approved tires are five times higher than any other equipment or on-board device. In addition, more than 52% of the vehicles travel with under inflated tires: a serious problem that negatively affects handling and driving precision and, as temperatures rise, could overheat the tires leading to a structural failure, or blowout". Besides creating a serious safety issue, driving with under inflated tires or the wrong set of “shoes” in any season can spell financial disaster, as the director of Assogomma points out: "the use of under inflated tires determines an increases in fuel consumption that can vary from 3% to 15%, and an unsuitable set of tires for the season will make things even worse. In addition, under inflation produces an uneven wear of the tire leading to an early replacement. Therefore, not just the motorist’s pockets will suffer the consequences of such lazy or even negligent behaviour, the environment will suffer too, not to mention the consequences on road safety".
For years now, Pneumatici Sotto Controllo, through campaigns such as Vacanze in Sicurezza (Safe Holidays) and Inverno in Sicurezza (Winter in Safety), has been trying to promote basic safety concepts in a quest to reduce the heavy toll taken by road accidents. "In 2001, when we first launched our initiative, a consumer survey was carried out to understand just how much attention was paid, by the average motorists, to tires, and the outcome was nothing short of depressing - says Bertolotti -: to the question 'which devices actively contribute to road safety?', nobody mentioned tires. This prompted us to “embark” in promotional and public information campaigns over the years, with a focus also on issues related to environmental protection. Well things have certainly changed and improved over the years: attention to proper tire care is no longer zero, but it is still a long way to 100%". Much needs to be done to bridge the gap between knowing and applying the best practices. "We are convinced that inspections should not be aimed solely at punishing violations - though useful - but should, above all, reward best practices - says the director of Assogomma with firm conviction -. For years, we have been proposing tax deductions on preventive maintenance work: a simple idea that would facilitates the spread of proper prevention practices, while tax authorities would be largely compensated by a reduction in public expenditure due to fewer accidents, not to mention a significant reduction in the number of victims annually paid to this silent war being fought on our roads”.