As snow car crashes soar, should you invest in winter tyres?

17 December 2010

As the second cold snap of the winter takes hold, AA Insurance has reported a massive rise in snow and ice-related collisions.

In the 12 hours to midday on Friday (17 December) the insurer had dealt with 331 claims - 22% more than than would be normal for a typical snow free December day. In Scotland 51% of claimants blamed their accident on snow and ice, compared to 34% in Wales.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says that tail-end crashes are the most common type of winter claim, especially at T-junctions and at roundabouts, followed by collisions with parked cars.

"If the road surface is icy, our advice is to try to keep a gap of 10 seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front to minimise the risk of you sliding in to the car in front." 

He adds that fitting winter tyres should reduce the chance of having an accident because the tyres will have a better grip on an icy road.

Douglas adds: "Provided you are fitting wheels and tyres that meet the car manufacturer's specification – you can confirm this by checking your car handbook or with your local main dealer – and they are professionally fitted, AA Insurance doesn't consider this to be a modification and it shouldn't be an issue for other insurers."

According to the charity Roadsafe, winter tyres are far safer than standard tyres in winter weather. This is because they have a higher natural rubber content and contain more advanced silica compounds meaning that when the temperature drops below seven degrees celsius they don't harden in the way ordinary tyres do and provide better traction with the road.

Tests conducted by the British Tyre Manufacturers Association found that the braking distance for a car with winter tyres driving at 60mph on a wet road at five degrees celsius was five metres shorter than the braking distance for the same car with standard tyres.

Unlike studded tyres or snow chains, the tyres do not damage the road surface in any way.

The tyres are already a legal requirement in some European countries including Germany and Austria and Adrian Walsh, RoadSafe, says UK drivers should follow their example irrespective of whether they live in areas with a high risk of snow or not.

"Winter tyres, aren't just good in the snow and ice, they're also very good when it's wet."

Although, the charity urges drivers to use them in the autumn and winter months, Walsh says it is perfectly safe to drive with winter tyres all year round.

Following the extreme snowfalls of last winter and the arctic conditions currently being endured by many, sales of snow tyres are booming. Kwik- Fit claims to have sold 50,000 already this winter.

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