SMMT joins calls for motorists to fit winter tyresBut are they really necessary in the UK?

02 November 2010

Audi driving on snow

Winter tyres perform in extreme condtions

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has supported the government’s call for drivers to fit winter tyres to improve road safety in the upcoming months.

Winter tyres were initially recommended following a government report, reviewing England’s infrastructural resilience during winter, which outlined different suggestions for industry to develop technical solutions to better prepare for the troublesome weather conditions.

Winter tyres are readily available

Paul Everitt, chief executive of SMMT, said: “Winter tyres ensure that the driver gets maximum traction on and off road, thereby ensuring that safety and stability are optimised.

“Despite increasingly harsh winter conditions in the UK, only a handful of drivers have vehicles with winter tyres, but there are many vehicle manufacturers providing a range of winter tyre options to ensure optimum performance and driver safety during winter driving conditions.”

Winter tyres differ significantly to the day-to-day car tyres we use all year round.

The rubber compound of a winter tyre is specially formulated to work in temperatures below seven degrees centigrade. Traditional tyres use a softer compound, which provides grip when roads are dry and reduces road noise, too. But when the temperature drops, the compound loses its flexibility.

The tread depth and shape is also designed to improve water drainage and increase the contact patch, improving the tyres ability to push through snow and muddy surfaces.

Winter tyre

Tread is designed to improve contact patch

Do we really need winter tyres in the UK?

Despite winter tyres becoming readily available and used on a wide-scale in other European countries, they represent a tiny percentage of the market in the UK.

David Evan, senior researcher for motoring at Which?, says: “Winter tyres account for less than 2% of the market because there's no general need for them in the UK unless you live in the remotest parts of the country.

“They work well in extreme weather conditions, which most parts of the UK only see these about once every thirty years - and then not usually for a prolonged period.

“So the investment (in a spare set of wheels and tyres) can't usually be justified.”

Road Safety Week 2010

Road safety is due to become a focal talking point in the coming week, with Road Safety Week taking place from November 22 to 28.

Which Car? Will be promoting Road Safety Week with a new child car seat feature and review, and a live online event on Tuesday 23 November answering any queries you have about child car seats.