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GARAGES TOLD TO GET A GRIP; RAC campaign puts pressure on service stations to provide free and accurate air gauges.

Byline: By Bill Caven

GARAGES should provide free, accurate and well-maintained tyre pressure gauges.

That's the opinion of the RAC Foundation, who have launched a campaign after being flooded with complaints about out-of-order gauges.

Tyres that aren't inflated correctly can contribute to accidents - and increased fuel consumption. Yet one in three motorists only check their tyres before a long journey.

What's not helping, is that many forecourt airlines at motorway and other service stations are damaged, inaccurate or out of order.

The RAC Foundation are now calling on all garage owners to insist that their franchisees safeguard the motoring public by ensuring that gauges are available and reliable.

Trading Standards departments of local authorities are also being encouraged to carry out regular tests of their accuracy.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: 'This is a major road safety issue raised by a significant number of motorists.

'Garage operators could do a lot to restore good relations with customers by providing reliable air equipment free of charge.'

He said: 'In the UK, charging for air has been commonplace for years, justified by the argument that the equipment is expensive to install and maintain.

'Making the use of the kit free would encourage drivers to check pressures - and help diffuse resentment about high fuel costs.'

Free testing equipment is the norm at motorway service areas and other major petrol stations in France, where statistics from Renault indicate that six per cent of all fatal motorway accidents are caused by the sudden failure of under-inflated tyres.

Variable message signs on motorways in that country also often carry warnings about the dangers of wrongly-inflated tyres.

In Scotland, a recent safety campaign carried out by the Tyre Industry Council revealed that 90 per cent of the cars they tested had either under or over-inflated tyres.

That's despite the fact that correct pressures are vital to safe handling, optimum steering, braking and grip.

Peter Taylor, secretary of the Tyre Industry Council, said: 'We share the concerns of the RAC Foundation. Motorists who use faulty or inaccurate airlines inadvertently put themselves at risk.

'Incorrectly inflated tyres can seriously skew the braking and handling characteristics of a vehicle and contribute to irregular and premature tyre wear.

'We feel that owners of forecourts featuring airlines have a duty to ensure their accuracy.'He added: 'Some motorists are forced to drive many motorway miles on wrongly-inflated tyres because pressure testers are not maintained.

'Garage operators have a moral and a commercial obligation to their customers to ensure that this vital road safety check can be undertaken safely, conveniently and reliably.'

The RAC Foundation is also asking European governments to consider following the example of the Americans in insisting that tyre pressure monitoring systems are fitted as standard on all new vehicles.

The NHTSA, the transportation department agency responsible for vehicle safety in the US, estimates that 10,000 injuries and deaths could be prevented in America each year by if motorists were diligent about checking tyre pressures.

And the US government subsequently passed a law requiring all new cars, minivans, SUV's and light trucks to come equipped with tyre pressure monitoring systems.

Why it's important to get it right

Under-inflated tyres could cause:

#A reduction in the overall control of the vehicle

# Increased braking distances#An increased risk of tyre failure

# Increased fuel consumption

# More air pollution

# Excessive wear of the shoulders of the tyres

Over-inflated tyres could cause: #Poor vehicle handling #Reduced stability in braking and cornering # Reduced

grip

# Greater risk of impact tyre damage
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 17, 2004
Words:589
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