Freedom of Information data, obtained by car savings site Confused.com, also found that more than 32,000 penalty points were handed out to almost 9,000 drivers with defective tyres.
Almost three quarters (73%) of drivers say they know how to check their tyres – yet only a quarter (26%) know the legal tread depth.
Perhaps it is no wonder drivers are being caught out, with many failing to notice their illegal tyres until they reach the garage.
One in three (35%) motorists who have driven with defective tyres only realised when their car was checked at the garage.
A further quarter (28%) only noticed when it was pointed out to them by a relative or friend. And with the Department of Transport proposing to extend the MOT period for new cars from three years to four years, we could see even more drivers unwittingly fined for defective tyre offences.
Yet drivers’ apparent reliance on garage checks does not appear to be due to lack of confidence, as almost three quarters (73%) say they know how to check their tyre tread.
But despite this, only a quarter (26%) actually know the legal tread depth for car tyres in the UK is over 1.6mm. And for some motorists, checking their own tread depth rarely appears to be at the forefront of their mind with 15% carrying out a check once a year or less and a further 16% admitting they never check.
Given that only 3% of drivers know they can be fined up to £2,500 per tyre, it may be unsurprising that some have little urgency when it comes to getting them replaced. Of those who discovered their car had defective tyres, more than a quarter (26%) had them replaced over a week later, with almost one in 10 (9%) waiting more than a month to have them corrected.
Most shocking is the distance some motorists are prepared to drive with bald or defective tyres, with the average motorist taking six trips in the car and driving 13 miles before having them replaced.
Despite the repercussions, convenience appears to be the main reason why motorists are continuing to drive after realising their tyres are illegal. More than a third (34%) did not get their tyres changed straight away because they didn’t have time, while a quarter (24%) said they could not afford it at the time. And a further quarter (23%) said the garage could not fit them in sooner.
To help drivers save money, avoid bald tyre fines and ease the hassle of arranging a trip to the garage, Confused.com has launched an online tyre tool (www.confused.com/tyres) which allows drivers to compare tyres and book a fitting for a single pay-on-the-day fee.
Drivers can compare the cost of budget, mid-range and premium tyres by simply entering their car registration, picking their tyres and choosing from a range of local fitters at a time and date to suit them.
“We understand that arranging to have your tyres changed seems like a hassle, and we know some drivers are concerned about how big a hole it’s going to burn in their pockets,” said Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com. “But motorists need to ask themselves if it’s really worth risking three points on their licence and enormous fines of up to £2,500 per tyre.”