Tyre Safety Month 2011 Winter Tyre Safety


Wet roads, cold temperatures, snow and ice can all contribute to potentially dangerous slip ups such as loss of grip aquaplaning and longer stopping distances.

Stay safe this winter

During the winter months it’s not just ice and snow that make our roads slippery and difficult to drive on. Even cold and damp conditions can make driving a dangerous task.

Thankfully though, tyre manufacturers have designed winter tyres that provide much better grip and safety in all of these conditions, helping you to avoid any unnecessary and unpleasant accidents.

At temperatures below 7 degrees, summer tyres become hard and are less able to grip to the road surface. Winter tyres are made from a special tread compound which stays flexible in cold conditions. This is so the tyre can lock into the peaks and troughs of the road surface and grip the road better. They also have more small grooves which provide better grip in wet or icy conditions.

To demonstrate the difference between winter and summer tyres, we carried out a series of tests using two virtually identical cars. One fitted with summer tyres and the other fitted with winter tyres.

How do winter tyres affect stopping distance?

The first test was a braking test which will show clearly the difference in stopping difference for the two tyres.

This video clearly demonstrates that even getting started on the ice in summer tyres is difficult. Once the driver reaches 15 mph he slams on the brakes, and it takes 12m to come to a stop on summer tyres. The car fitted with winter tyres has a much smoother acceleration and comes to a stop after just 8m.

Which means at just 15 mph the summer tyres took a full car length more to stop. Imagine the difference at higher speeds, if sudden braking was needed on a busy main road.

How do winter tyres affect cornering?

The second test performed was a cornering test which showed how differently the two tyres performed when cornering in cold conditions.

Both cars were driven around a bend at just 15mph on an ice rink.  The car fitted with summer tyres experienced drastic understeer and loss of control as it entered the bend. On a real road, imagine the consequences of this if understeer led a car into the path of oncoming traffic.

The car fitted with winter tyres gave the driver much better control even when setting off, with better traction on the ice. The car steered seamlessly through the cones with seemingly total control on the ice rink. Very different from the car fitted with summer tyres. The video shows the difference from an overhead camera.

Winter tyres are not just designed for arctic conditions, they operate more effectively at temperatures below 7 degrees, a regular and repetitive occurrence during the winter months in the UK – giving better grip, stability and safety.

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