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In May and June, over 8,000 vehicles were checked in three major regions: Lombardy, Campania and Sicily. Two cars out of ten were unlawful. These are the data from “Vacanze Sicure 2012”, a continuing initiative by Assogomma, Federpneus and the Traffic Police

Paolo Castiglia

IT WOULD SEEM that drivers still do not attach due importance to their car’s tyres. And yet everyone knows that the condition of tyres is very important for the safety of road users and to guarantee good vehicle efficiency. And yet the tyres on 2 out of 10 cars were not legal. This is according to data from “Vacanze Sicure 2012” (Safe Holidays 2012), the Assogomma, Federpneus and Traffic Police initiative that aims to raise public awareness about the importance of tyres with the correct tread depths.
The data were processed in collaboration with Turin Polytechnic after checking over 8,000 vehicles in May and June in three sample regions: Lombardy, Campania and Sicily. What was immediately apparent, as we said, was the fact that on two cars out of ten the tyres did not meet legal requirements: worn treads, non-homologated tyres or tyres that were not in conformity with the vehicle registration certificate. The checks also demonstrated that there is an increase in mismatched tyres on the same axle and that numerous tyres had visible damage. Many vehicles were still fitted with winter tyres, which were not a hazard but they were not suitable for the season.
Given that there are 49 million vehicles on Italy’s roads” –  emphasized Assogomma director Fabio Bertolotti – “37 million of which are cars, it follows that 2 out of 10 are not up to standard, almost 10 million vehicles that are not only breaking the law (sometimes without being aware of it) but are also a danger to others". The director emphasized the importance of having tyres and pressures checked by a tyre specialist, also for the sake of fuel efficiency (and personal safety) because driving on underinflated tyres increases consumption. “The data of the 2012 checks are in line with those of the previous year”, he added, “but it should be remembered that there has been a distinct improvement in regions where the Traffic Police repeated checks after some time had passed: for example, in Tuscany the number of bald tyres dropped from 5.8% in 2008 to 3.4% in 2009, in Puglia from 3.9% in 2008 to 3% in 2010, and also in Lombardy the 4% of 2006 and 2008 is now 3.7%”. Bertolotti continued: “The checks are the first step towards improving road safety, but let’s not forget that tyres are its best allies”.
The traditional collaboration with Assogomma “gave us the opportunity to draw drivers’ attention to the dangers of bald, deflated or non-homologated tyres, as well as checking other essential aspects such as wearing seatbelts also in the rear seats” said the director of Polizia Stradale, Maria Luisa Pellizzari, on the eve of taking up her new position as director of the State Police’s Central Operations Service.

Survey results
Over 8,000 checks during May and June  in Lombardy, Campania and east Sicily, 7,680 of which were on cars (2,043 in Campania, 3,147 in Lombardy and 2,490 in east Sicily) and 650 on motorbikes. As mentioned, the data collected by the Traffic Police were processed in collaboration with Turin Polytechnic. One of the first results that emerged showed that all the non-conformities found in the cars that were checked meant that two out of ten cars were in violation of the law. The average for smooth tyres was around 3.2% (in Milan it was 7.9%). In Campania the average for non-homologated tyres was 4.6%, peaking to 10.5% in Avellino, and non-conformity with the vehicle registration certificate was an average of 4.7% and over 6% in Caserta.
Compared with previous surveys, but in line with 2011 checks, axles with mismatched tyres was an average of 3.3% rising to 3.8% in Sicily and over 6% in the provinces of Avellino and Syracuse. Damage that was visible to the naked eye was around 4%, in line with previous surveys, peaking in Milan at 7.3% and 6.9% in Sondrio.
There was also an increase in the number of winter tyres that were still mounted, even in regions in the south (an average of 12% in Campania, 10% in Sicily and 8% in Lombardy, peaking in Sondrio at 18.5% and, surprisingly, in Ragusa at 17.5%, Naples 17% and Messina 16.5%). The most suitable tyres for the summer are, of course, the versions specifically for that season. In addition to the condition of tyres, the 2012 survey also checked car and motorbike roadworthiness, which revealed that about 3% were not up-to-date. Moreover, in 8% of cases in Campania, 5% in Sicily and 4% in Lombardy, drivers had not fastened their seatbelt and the percentage doubled for rear seat passengers in all three regions.
Tyre pressures also play an important role in safety and can save fuel consumption by up to 15%. Especially before long journeys, perhaps with the entire family and the car fully loaded, it is important to go to a tyre specialist to check the condition of the tyres and ensure that the pressures are correct.
The percentage of motorbikes with smooth tyres was double that for cars. This was the case in Campania (6%), but also in Lombardy (6%) for motorcycles only. However, Sicily was not far behind (over 5%). Of the one million motorbikes in circulation, 11% were found to be in violation with regard to tyres.

The value of checks
Checking the efficiency of tyres is important throughout the year to guarantee vehicle safety, but it is essential before setting off on a long journey in a vehicle that is normally used only in the city.
From an initial analysis the percentage of non-conformity may seem to be low, but if we consider the number of vehicles on Italy’s roads – almost 37 million – then the 15 percentage points for tyres that are in breach of the law mean that 5.5 million vehicles are below standard. It must be emphasized that, on average, the checked vehicles were younger than the regional average. In Campania especially there was an obvious gap between the average age of 11 years and that of the sample cars which was 7 years and 9 months.
10 years and 70,000 checks.
To prepare a detailed evaluation, a databank was created of the tyres checked over almost ten years by the Traffic Police in collaboration with Assogomma: a considerable sample of over  70,000 checks spread over all the regions of the peninsula.

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