- Drive Safe-Safety
A significant 14.1 % of road crashes in South Africa can be attributed to factors associated with the mechanics of the cars involved according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC)’s most recently published National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) for 2016 - 2030.
The report by this government appointed agency tasked with ensuring safe, secure and responsible use of the country’s roads, equally points out that in cases where crashes are attributed to poor driver behaviour, the actual triggers could very possibly be vehicle design and roadworthiness on closer inspection, thus indicating that mechanical failure may be more underreported than statistical evidence indicates.
Ary Coetzee, Technical & Product Specialist with top tyre manufacturer, Bridgestone South Africa, defines mechanical failure as the umbrella term for anything that goes wrong with any of the car’s components.
However, not all components are equally critical to safety, as underscored by the RTMC’s 2014 statistical ranking which placed the various mechanical failure factors that cause accidents as follows:
- burst tyres: 73.3%
- faulty brakes: 4 %
- smooth tyres: 7 %
- faulty steering: 2.9 %
Mechanical failure in vehicles as cause of accidents on the road
Prevention, as we know, is the ultimate cure, and according to Ary, the three most critical areas can be managed well by acquiring a habit of vigilance and routine maintenance that will go a long way to preventing any mechanically-caused car accident. These areas are:
Factor #1 - Tyres
At 79%, tyres represent the single biggest mechanical failure factor that causes car accidents in South Africa. This can either be through the sudden loss of inflation pressure (popularly known as a tyre burst or blowout) or having become too smooth to provide adequate traction because of a dangerous loss of protective tread.
A burst can happen for several reasons such as a worn-out, under- or over-inflated tyre suddenly bursting under pressure or as a result of a puncture caused by road debris. This sudden loss of inflation pressure unexpectedly reduces one’s control over the car and can therefore cause a crash, more so because it catches the driver off guard.
Smooth tyres where the tread has worn thin and beyond the tread wear indicator (twi) can be a major problem as it compromises the tyre’s grip on the road. This is particularly dangerous during stormy or rainy weather, or when after a build-up of oil slick during the dry season – the Highveld winter or Cape summer – the roads become extremely slippery after the first rains./p>
Smooth tyres are more likely to slip, take more distance to brake, and aren’t as responsive because of their weak grip on the road. All of which can contribute to accidents.
What to do to Maintain Your Tyres to Prevent an Accident
Replacing tyres before they completely lose their tread and maintaining optimal tyre pressure are musts for preventing these mechanical failures on the road./p>
Also, regularly check your tyre alignment – according to Ary – at least every 10,000 km or once a year, as bad alignment wear tyres out faster.
A good preventative practise too, is to rotate front and rear tyres approximately every six months or 10,000 km, whichever comes first. This will prolong tyre lifespan by helping to prevent uneven wear.
The best practise for rotating tyres is that each tyre is removed and refitted at a different position. Each driving method has its own correct way for rotating tyres as follows:
- Front Wheel Drive
The two front tyres stay on the same side of the car and are transferred to the rear. The rear tyres, however, move forward and switch sides.
- Rear Wheel Drive
The two rear tyres stay on the same side of the car and are transferred to the front. However, the front tyres move backwards and switch sides.
- Four Wheel Drive
Both sets of tyres swap sides and position. The two front tyres move back and switch. At the same time the two rear tyres move forward and switch.
Factor #2 - Brakes
Faulty brakes account for 11.4% of car accidents, particularly rear-end collisions.
Common contributing factors to brake-related crashes include:
- Leaks in brake lines may allow brake fluid to drain away and therefore reduce brake performance.
- A malfunction of the Antilock Brake System (ABS) which is designed to prevent the wheels from locking up when the driver hits the brakes hard to prevent loss of control, can compromise braking performance.
- The brake pads and discs in a car wear out a little with each use and incrementally become less effective./li>
Regular vigilance and awareness of longer stopping distance should become second nature to every driver and a thorough professional inspection of a car’s braking system should be done at least every 30,000 km to coincide with the typical lifespan of brake pads, says Ary.
Factor #3 - Steering and Suspension
The third most-common vehicle related factor for car accidents listed in the RTMC report, was “faulty steering” at 2.9%.
According to American personal injury law firm, Lowman, underreporting – because it is harder to document and identify post-crash – may explain why this is a less cited causal factor for car accidents. A burst tyre or worn brakes are very visible whilst wear and tear damage to steering or suspension is more difficult to sort out from the general damage incurred in a crash.
Steering and suspension problems can cause a loss of control over your vehicle at inopportune moments, very possibly while facing oncoming traffic.
Routine vehicle maintenance is the best way to prevent steering and suspension problems. If your vehicle’s due for a full inspection, it’s important to get that inspection done and get a report so you can proactively check that there are no issues.
Whilst not as high as human error, mechanical failure is most definitely one of the other very real causal factors for road accidents. However, in all cases, proactive awareness and sensible routine maintenance can prevent them in the majority of cases.
Supa Quick has over 200 tyre fitment centres in Southern Africa and a national team of more than 4,000 auto fitment experts trained to assist you. Find a store close to you and get your car checked today with Supa Quick’s Free Vehicle Safety Check.
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