Driving during the winter is often intimidating for both new and seasoned drivers. Snow, ice, strong winds, and slush are just some of the perils that await drivers on the road. But when you take extra precautions, there's nothing to fear. Winter tires, for example, are key to driving safely.
What Are Winter Tires?
Winter tires are also known as snow tires. As you can guess by the name, they're designed to handle the worst driving conditions in inclement weather. They tend to have deeper tread to grip snow, as well as rubber compounds designed to remain pliable on the road, according to Consumer Reports.
“Winter tires provide increased traction, braking, and handling in wintry conditions, all of which are important for safe driving during the winter season," stated Philip Dobbs, Chief Marketing Officer, Bridgestone Americas.
If you're heading out and find icy roads or slushy paths, winter tires can keep you safe. You're less likely to lose control of your vehicle when breaking or making a turn, for example.
Winter Tires Can Save Lives
Every year, over 110,000 people get into car accidents on snowy, slushy, or icy roads, according to the Federal Highway Administration. And although those accidents happen for many reasons, driving with winter tires could prevent many of them.
This isn't new information. In 2008, the Canadian province of Quebec passed a law making it mandatory for drivers to use snow tires during the winter. A few years later, the Quebec government concluded in a study that this simple switch reduced the number of car accidents in the winter. In fact, fatalities or serious injuries on snowy, icy, or slushy roads went down by a whopping 36%.
Do I Need Winter Tires?
Not every driver in the United States needs winter tires. If your region doesn't get snow or ice (for example, Florida), you don't need to invest in a set. But if you live in a state like North Dakota where snowstorms, blizzards, and icy roads are a mainstay of the winter, you definitely should.
Despite all that evidence, many drivers in the United States are still reluctant about changing to winter tires. Michelin—the tire manufacturer—commissioned a study to find out why. Turns out, 67% of snow-belt drivers in the U.S. believe they don't need winter tires because they have all-season tires. Yet, evidence shows that all-season tires can lose grip in really cold temperatures.
How Often Should I Replace My Winter Tires?
One of the reasons why many drivers don't use winter tires is because of cost. And yes, sets of snow tires can be expensive. But they might not be as expensive as you may think.
For starters, you should only use your snow tires during the winter. When the roads aren't covered in snow, slush, or ice, they don't provide the good traction you need—all-season tires are better in this case. Secondly, most drivers won't need to replace them every winter. They only need to be switched out once the tread depth reaches 4/32". More often than not, that means a new set every four or five winter seasons.
Winter Tires Keep You Safe, But They're Not Foolproof!
Just because you have winter tires doesn't mean you can ignore the bad weather and brave any road. You still need to be careful while driving. For instance, speeding on snowy roads is a no-no, even if you have the best winter tires in the world.
The best way to stay safe while driving in scary winter conditions is to get a refresher on defensive driving. Our online course will give you the tools you need to become an even better driver. From knowing how to handle distracted drivers to learning what to do in hazardous situations, this course has you covered.