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Don’t give winter tyres the cold shoulder

7th December 2011 Print
Winter driving

As temperatures plummet across the whole of the UK, TyreSafe is urging motorists to ‘warm’ to winter weather tyres to stay safe on the roads.

Following one of the warmest autumns on record, winter has now arrived and with it air temperatures, which are crucial to how a tyre performs, have plunged. When temperatures drop below seven degrees Celsius the tread compound in ‘normal’ summer tyres begins to harden, changing their performance and reducing road safety.

However, with a higher content of natural rubber in their tread compound and advanced silica compounds, winter tyres function at their best in these cold damp conditions and are able to provide better grip, shorter stopping distances and overall improved safety.

Indeed, in tests conducted by the British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association, a car braking at 60mph on a wet road at five degrees Celsius stopped five metres shorter, equivalent to more than one car length, when fitted with winter weather tyres. In icy and snowy conditions the differences were even more dramatic. At 30mph on snowy roads the difference increased to eight metres and on icy roads at just 20mph, the difference increased to nine metres.

Data from the Met Office further supports the argument for drivers switching to winter tyres. Its latest average climate figures for the UK show that for three months of the year, the maximum temperature is below seven degrees Celsius and for eight months of the year, the minimum temperature is also below this key threshold.

While snow and ice present an obvious hazard to drivers in terms of steering, acceleration and braking, there is also a hidden danger that can dramatically affect the performance of tyres.

“We all remember the particularly harsh winters we’ve had in last two years, but it’s not just these extreme wintry conditions that present dangers for drivers. Cold, damp roads can be just as hazardous and should be treated with the upmost respect. Fitting winter tyres is the safest option as they provide extra grip in these types of conditions, making driving much safer,” said Stuart Jackson, chairman, TyreSafe.

“Although winter tyres can be used all year round, they should be especially considered for fitment from October through to March when they come into their own and help reduce the risk of an accident. Normally, the temperature barely creeps above seven degrees during this entire period, especially in the morning and evening rush hours when the roads are at their busiest,” said Stuart Jackson, chairman, TyreSafe.

Motorists who decide not to fit winter weather tyres can still carry out tyre checks to lessen their chances of being in an accident. Tread depth should be inspected to ensure that it easily exceeds the legal minimum requirements of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre, around its entire circumference. The tyre should be checked for any cuts, bulges or embedded objects and tyre pressures should be checked at least once a month or before a long journey.

Further information about the benefits of fitting winter tyres can be found by visiting the TyreSafe website at Included on the site is a video demonstration which clearly shows the added safety benefits of winter tyres.

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Winter driving