When you stop and think about it, it’s frightening that when you are driving at 30, 50, 70mph the only contact between your car and the road at any one time is through a piece of rubber, no bigger than the palm of your hand on each tyre.

Given this, it is amazing the amount of grip and control that modern cars provide, even in the wet.

What this also shows is the importance of looking after your tyres on an ongoing basis, because any journey that you make on tyres that aren’t up to scratch is a major risk, a point supported by statistics.

During 2008, 34 motorists died in the UK where an illegal, defective or under-inflated tyre contributed to the crash. A further 900 motorists were injured in accidents due to tyre defects and neither of these figures take into account accidents where tyres were probably at fault but the vehicle was so badly damaged that it was impossible to tell for sure.

That’s why TyreSafe has just launched the ‘lifesaver in your pocket’ campaign, designed to encourage drivers to check tyre wear using a 20p coin to measure tread. While safety is the primary concern, there are also economic implications of poorly maintained tyres as under inflated or worn tyres reduce mpg performance.

With these factors to consider, it is important not just to maintain tyres, but also select the right ones in the first place. Help will soon be at hand as the EU Council of Ministers have agreed that from 2012, new tyres will come with a label indicating fuel efficiency, wet grip and noise performance. Similar to the energy information provided with household appliances, the label will classify tyres from the best-performing ‘A’ class to the worst ‘G’ class.

Tyre maintenance is easy to do but just as easy to forget and drivers should be checking tyre pressures and treads at least once a month. Current UK law states that tyre tread on cars must be at a minimum of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tread, around its entire circumference. Drivers found in breach of this law face a fine of up to £2500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, tyres are as basic as it gets, but also incredibly important. Drivers must keep on top of this for safety, cost and environmental reasons; otherwise, you are exposing yourself to the disastrous consequences of those small patches of rubber not being able to keep you on the road.