Drivers across Britain are faced this week with that terrifying experience of braking on an icy or snowy road, due to the terrible weather we have had of late, it has happened to everyone, the moment when your car fails to stop and you continue to glide forward beyond your control. Though for around £500, investing in some winter tyres is said to actually cut the number of accidents, and naturally give you a far better grip on the treacherous roads ensuring better road safety.
In many other countries around the World, such as Germany, winter tyres are actually a legal requirement. The Scottish Government therefore have set up a group to consider whether the United Kingdom should be following those countries down the same route.
What can winter tyres do?
However, throughout the UK, winter tyres are apparently a bit of a mystery to many people apart from the extreme car enthusiasts of our Country. It is actually estimated that only 3% of British car owners have winter tyres fitted. This is thought to be because people may not realise that they are not just used for snow but can also cut accidents in cold and wet conditions aswell.
Manufacturers advise that drivers are indeed better off with a set of winter tyres, whenever the temperature drops to below 7C. Winter tyres are made from a different rubber compound than regular tyres, with a high content of silica, which makes them softer. They also have a different tread pattern, more slits and markings in the tread blocks of the tyres, which obviously result in better grip on the roads and allow a safer brake on ice and snow. Continental Tyre Makers explained that a car travelling at around 31 miles per hour with standard brakes will take around 43 metres to stop on snow, however will take just 35 metres when the car is fitted with winter tyres.
Snow and ice causes the accident rate to rise dramatically in the UK. With 1 in 4 drivers actually being involved in an accident in icy or snowy conditions. Due to recent figures it is more likely to be men involved in accidents than women. The interest in winter tyres naturally rises in a cold period, Kwik Fit said that during the extremely cold January of 2011, all of their 50,000 stock of winter tyres sold out throughout the UK. Though many people who buy tyres during these conditions complain afterwards that they actually had no value from buying the “special” tyres.
The downside to winter tyres is not just the price of them, which are around 10% more than standard tyres, though also the process of fitting them and storing them when they are not being used. Advocates of the winter tyres however argue that although they are more expensive, they also last twice as long. Also meaning that rural drivers do not actually have to splash out on a four wheel drive vehicle, as they can get winter tyres with the equivalent roadholding for a fraction of the cost.
So are winter tyres worth it?
They are said to be extremely impressive, though whether winter tyres are impressive enough for £500 is a different story.