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PRESSURE POINT; GERRY CASSIDY discovers a handy way to help drivers avoid the headache that is a flat tyre.

Byline: GERRY CASSIDY

HOLIDAY Disaster Number One: A blow-out on the motorway as you set off, car stuffed with children and luggage, on your way to the airport.

Worse: you've been waiting in the baking heat, slap bang in the centre of 10 endless rows of cars waiting to board the cross-channel ferry when one tyre finally gives up the ghost and you're left, obstructing all behind you, watching dolefully as your fellow travellers swerve past to take their place on board.

They're nightmare scenarios, true, but all too likely for more drivers than you'd care to imagine.

But blow-outs, of course, can be more than just inconvenient. When they happen at high speed they can lead to injury and death.

One survey in the States revealed that tyre-related accidents led to 23,464 serious crashes - with 535 fatalities - in one year.

Talk about pressure - which is exactly what we're doing here. The RAC report that road accidents are frequently caused by driving for extended periods of time by under-inflated tyres.

It's a hazard known only too well by those involved in motorsport. For years, racing drivers have enjoyed the security of being able to monitor tyre pressure as they spin around the track. The technology is also being made available to buyers of new prestige cars such as the Aston Martin Vanquish.

But owners of older, less upmarket models can now share in a tyre pressure monitoring system that can save tyres, save fuel and save lives.

Canadian company SmarTire have developed a tyre pressure system that can be fitted to any car. Lightweight sensors are fitted to each wheel and these relay information to an in-car display, alerting drivers instantly when the pressure drops below a set level. In the case of a slow puncture, drivers are alerted early enough to inspect the suspect tyre before there's a danger of a high-speed blow-out.

More often than not, though, a visit to a petrol station to top up the pressure is all that's required - and this simple action can bring rewards in terms of allowing the car to drive more fuel efficiently and by saving wear and tear on the tyres.

Shell Research Laboratories claim that tyre life can be increased by up to 20 per cent by maintaining correct tyre pressure while tyre manufacturers Goodyear say that for every one psi drop in tyre pressure, tyre life is reduced by 800 miles.

The SmarTire system can be fitted to trailers and caravans and a version has also been developed for motorbikes.

John Stubbs, the AA's head of policy, said: "Tyre maintenance is all too easily overlooked. Until the arrival of tyre pressure monitoring technology there was no easy alternative to checking tyre pressures at regular intervals - something that people are increasingly unwilling to do.

"This reduces the need for physical checks and has the potential to improve safety, vehicle handling and tyre life."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 19, 2002
Words:485
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