Coach crash deaths – coroner calls for tyre age regulation

The Minister for Transport will be receiving a report requesting action on tyre age following a fatal coach crash last year.

Three people were killed and others injured when a 52 seat coach operated by Merseypride Travel suffered a tyre blowout on the A3 and crashed into a tree. Surrey coroner Richard Travers said that the “catastrophic failure” of the 19 and half years old tyre had caused the accident and he recorded a verdict of accidental death. The coach was 17 years old and the youngest victim of the crash was just 18, not even as old as the tyre. The driver and a young woman passenger were also killed

The tyre had been bought second hand by the company and had legal tread. It had never been re-grooved or re-treaded and was apparently perfectly legal to use. However in a separate development, the company has been charged with using a defective tyre on the vehicle. This refers to a different tyre.

In evidence at the inquest, tyre expert David Price said that the tyre was ‘abnormally old’ and was the cause of the accident. The tyre was only half worn, so it had either been a spare or in storage for many years. ‘It is known that tyres deteriorate significantly with age’, he said and explained that it had been delaminating internally for perhaps months, but this was not noticeable to the eye. He added that lack of a legal requirement about the age of tyres was ‘frustrating’.

Following the inquest, coroner Richard Travers will be writing a rule-43 report concerning age of tyres to the Minister for Transport. This is the procedure used where a coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent future deaths.

Tyre blowouts are widely considered to be unpredictable, but they always have a cause. An undetected puncture, low pressure or overloading can cause even a new tyre to burst. As the stress on the tyre increases, the tyre delaminates and invariably overheats before it blows out. This overheating can be detected by a TyrePal system and a warning can be given to the driver before the blowout or a tyre fire actually occurs.

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