You’ll notice that I titled this article “How to driver safer in the winter” and not “how to driver safely in the winter” and there’s a good reason for that. Because, with the best will in the world, there’s always a chance that something utterly unexpected might come along. But if you are properly prepared, you can drive safer.
In countries that have snow and ice for months on end, preparing for winter driving is easy. You just have snow chains or perhaps snow socks fitted to your vehicle’s wheels (or the drive wheels in the case of snow socks) and leave them there until the thaw, many months hence.
But for those of us living in the UK snow chains and snow tyres really aren’t an option. If the weather is bitingly cold and it is a pitch-black winter’s night, how will the average motorist fit snow chains or snow socks?
And you can’t use snow chains on non-snowy roads and must also take tyre socks off on non-snowy roads, difficult in the UK as our weather which can be very patchy, even over relatively small areas.
Doubtless you’ll have seen videos on the Internet of happy, smiling people quickly and easily putting snow chains or snow socks onto their car wheels. However, these videos never show someone with fingers feeling as if they are only minutes away from frostbite, struggling in bitter weather, with a rapidly dimming torch clamped between their teeth as, on a cold, dark night, they struggle to fit snow chains or snow socks to a stubborn vehicle, when they have fractious children in the car.
Also, as mentioned above, as soon as you’d left the snowy area (as can happen in Britain) you’d be expected to immediately remove the snow chains or the snow socks, so both of these solutions seem to be less practicable than you might think.
The best option, as any competent tyre technician will tell you, are properwinter tyres. Have these fitted to your car throughout the winter months and that’s really all you need do.
They do not only help your drive better in snowy conditions, they are also designed to work better at the kind of temperatures we face in the UK from October until the end of winter. They also help when driving on wet roads or on ice. This is in part due to the design of the tread but also due to the special formulation for the rubber that is used.
Winter tyres are designed to remain flexible in extremely cold conditions, whereas standard tyres would be damaged, and their special tread patterns reduce the risk of aquaplaning when driving on wet or slushy roads, improving performance even on snow and ice.
Lee Taylor, of Allianz Global Assistance in the UK says: “We understand motorists can be put off by the cost of winter tyres, but it’s important to remember they are a long-term investment. Also, our increasingly harsh winters have increased demand for winter tyres, which of course creates greater competition and reduces the price, so they are more affordable than ever.
“Most drivers will have to replace the full set of tyres on their vehicle at some point during ownership. Swapping to winter tyres for a few months each year not only means they last many years, but it saves wear and tear on a car’s standard tyres and helps them to last much longer too. This means the standard tyres need replacing less frequently, making the cost of the winter tyres much less prohibitive over the ownership cycle.
“If and when the promised snow does hit, we would expect to see what have become all-too-familiar scenes in the media of vehicles stuck in gridlocked traffic or having collided with other vehicles or skidded off slippery roads and into snowdrifts. Too many UK drivers and their cars are simply not prepared to cope with these extreme conditions as they have not been the norm up until very recently.
“Our European neighbours, who expect extreme winters every year, take time to prepare their cars fully which means they are not only safer but also more able to continue as normal even when ice and snow does hit. Unfortunately UK drivers often seem to put perceived additional cost above safety in this respect, but as our winters become harsher and the roads more dangerous, we must all do what we can to protect ourselves and other road users. Fitting winter tyres can help motorists stay on the road and stay safe.”
All you need do is arrange to see the nice tyre technicians at Crawley Down Group (www.cdg-cars.com) and ask them to fit some winter tyres for you. According to the experts, you’ll soon notice an improvement in your winter driving.