Winter Driving

With all this travel chaos about you might be forgiven for thinking that driving in a British winter is simply impossible, not so.

There are two factors vital to safe driving on snowy or iced roads, the correct winter tyres and adequate driver skill. It is a sad reflection of our attitude to driving that for the majority of road users both of these factors are sadly lacking.

I have been arguing for decades that winter driving skills and skid training should be a compulsory element of the UK driving test, as it is in many other countries where similar conditions exist, I also strongly believe we should all retake our test every 5 years. But irrespective of any test conditions we should all do a refresher course every few years, I am fortunate that as part of my work I am frequently assessed and receive training, and even after a quarter century behind the wheel I am still learning. Most good driving schools offer refresher courses for experienced drivers, and many also offer specialist skid training, a sound investment in your own safety and that of other road users.

But all the skill in the world would be pointless if your car still has hard summer tyres on. Winter tyres use a different rubber compound that maintains better grip on cold, wet or icy roads, they also have a very different tread patter with many tiny groves to allow the tread to grip the rough surface of icy roads. If you have never tried them the difference is amazing, not only allowing you to pull away in slippery conditions but more importantly they dramatically reduce stopping distances and help maintain steering. In many countries using winter tyres at this time of year is compulsory, with very good reason. Some people use a spare set of wheels for their winter tyres and swap over when temperatures dip below 7C, but for normal driving good quality winter tyres can be used all year round saving all the fuss and bother. Winter tyres usually have a snow flake symbol on the side and the word ‘Winter’ just to make it clear what they are.

With these two steps, and driving slowly leaving plenty of stopping distance, you can enjoy winter motoring just as much as in the summer.

And if you don’t enjoy motoring then catch the bus and stop cluttering up our roads 😉

But the thing is that most people who drive have no interest in cars or driving, cars have become a necessity to the vast majority and are marketed as convenience goods, just like a microwave or dish washer. So they are not likely to read blogs like this or tweets from the AA, and to be fair most of the time they don’t need to.

I was watching cars struggling up a very slight incline to get out of a car park at a retail park recently, a BMW 3 series took several runs and needed the backed up traffic to reverse out of the way before managing to slither onto the road. This was quite entertaining, but the point is that although these cars were on summer tyres and the drivers hopeless, they all managed to get out eventually.

I suspect that as long as most people can get away with it, any calls for improved driving skills and winter tyres will fall on deaf ears.

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About Ralph Hosier

I love exploring everything the world has to offer, the fabulous beauty and intricacies of nature, the stunning majesty and grandeur of the universe, and the fascinating range of chocolates available from the local sweety shop. I have led a charmed life, sure there has been extremes, but the highs far outweigh the lows. I get paid for arsing about in very fast cars, I get to write about them and amazingly get paid for this too. My days are usually filled by making prototype and concept cars for car companies, a dream job. I have lived many of my dreams, worked all over the world, raced cars built by my own hand (and hardly ever crashed really badly), seen things and done stuff. But nothing compares to the love of Diana and my son Peter, beyond my greatest hopes. I am a chartered engineer, a member of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), and of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and I am a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. A pleasing fact is that there are now more letters after my name than there are in it ;) R.Hosier B.Eng(Hons) C.Eng MIET MIMI MGoMW
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One Response to Winter Driving

  1. Ed Callow says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Ralph. The point about “they get away eventually, so don’t see the point of specialist equipment” is bang on.
    It’s a bit like trying to saw through a tree trunk with a swiss army knife: you’ll do it given patience and a few months, but why don’t you just have at it with a chainsaw and get it over in minutes?
    Yes, they are more expensive than a cup of coffee (but less expensive than the new TVs everyone seems to feel compelled to rush out to buy at Christmas…), and you do have to store the other tyres somewhere if you want to keep them – but since they’re the only thing keeping you on the road, I don’t think you can afford to overlook them.

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