Goodyear’s current ad campaign has a straightforward message: Goodyear Cold Weather Tyres can reduce braking distance on snow by 55%. They compared their latest winter tyres to their summer tyres and found that the braking distance on snow, from 50kph to 5kph (31mph to 3.1mph), was reduced by 28 metres (or 92 feet, the length of two and a half buses).
This is great news if you’ve got winter tyres and no one behind you. In heavy traffic, though, it’s a slightly different proposition. Here’s a scenario. You’ve got winter tyres, the chap behind you hasn’t. You’re both doing the same speed and he’s on your tail.
You’re sensible. You’ve left a big gap between you and the chap in front.
Something happens and you all have to stop quickly.
You stop easily. And the chap behind you?
Here’s another thing. You drive shortish distances to and from work, say, in and around major towns or cities. You’re not an open roads person.
You decide winter tyres are worth the investment, and work out the relative costs between a new set of wheels or swapping with storage. All very sensible so far.
Come the snow, though, when the roads are blocked by motorists without winter tyres, you’ll be as stuck as they are, unable to move because hundreds of idiots without winter tyres are in your way.
And finally: you might have winter tyres fitted, but you still won’t stop as quickly and easily as on a summer’s day. Drivers of cars with winter tyres really need to be quite clear about stopping distance. It might be better than somebody else’s, but it’s no guarantee of your safety.
In other countries winter tyres are compulsory for certain months of the year. Everybody is in the same position. Braking – they all have the same advantage. Getting home – they’re as good as each other.
It’s a great shame, but until we sort ourselves out, winter tyres won’t always be the answer we’re looking for.