Sunday, 5 December 2010

Gripping Stuff



A few decades ago I worked in Switzerland for a short time.  Although I didn't have a car - there was no need as public transport was, by British standards, superb - I was aware that all vehicle owners changed their tyres to snow tyres from early November until around March.  There was no hullaballoo about it, people accepted the policy kept them far safer than driving through winter with tyres only fit for summer weather.

In Germany it wasn't compulsory, but many businesses insisted tyres were changed and also each vehicle carried snow chains.  Fortunately I never had to apply snow chains to my vehicle, although I recall a horrendous journey from Hannover to Herford which took 7 hours, but the snow chains were there in the boot and I'm sure some gallant Herr would have offered his services if I had been unable to keep moving even with snow tyres.  I was never one of those bra-burning feminists who, I still believe, didn't do much towards equality for women. I preferred the 'feminine movement', which worked quietly in the background gradually showing that women could transfer their skills to the male world.

Luckily I had a father who was very enlightened and before I ever had my first driving lesson from him I had to learn how to change a wheel, change oil and fit spark plugs.  Nowadays it's too complicated under the bonnet and my car needs the help of a computer programme to do anything more complicated than renewing a fuse.

This early winter made me wonder if it's time Scotland made it compulsory to change to winter tyres from November to March.  Winter tyres are not snow tyres.  They're tyres specifically designed for temperatures under 7 degrees.  Snow tyres now appear to be old-fashioned and wouldn't be suitable here because we don't have five months of snow.  The past week I've spoken to two people who have invested in winter tyres for their cars and wished they had done a year ago.  The two have purchased new (in one case second hand) wheels for their winter tyres to make the change over in March simple.  I queried the cost but was told some of the expense would be recouped when the cars were sold on as the tyres would go with it.

After listening to the these stories, I'm tempted to invest in them myself.  At first I thought I thought I didn't do enough mileage to warrant them, but after having a glide to visit a friend earlier yesterday evening, I realise there's no price on personal safety.  No matter how good a driver you are, in poor conditions if everyone had tyres which could cope far better in winter, there would be fewer cars blocking roads, fewer accidents and fewer injuries.

Of course many will say 'not another piece of legislation', but if you think about it without a law saying every car should have winter tyres, which will ensure traffic moves instead of stalls, then we'll still have those who have no respect for the safety of others and thus themselves.  Plus the offenders will be easy to find.  They'll be the ones blocking roads because they're unable to keep their vehicles under control.

Viva winter tyres! Having driven a car today - quite similar to my own - I'm all for the extra grip offered.  Especially when I had to move, for those selfish drivers, into the mounds of impacted snow at the side of roads.  I perhaps shouldn't say selfish drivers but 'drivers who know they can't drive on snow/ice'.  Others will say these are an additional expense on families when we are in the middle of a recession.  Surely knowing the vehicle that transports you and yours is worth spending a couple of hundred pounds on to make safe during the winter months.

Fair enough, the tyre companies will make a fortune initially, but isn't it better to buy them before VAT rises to 20% and to know that you never again will buy a car without having a good look at its seasonal tyres?

Here in the east of Scotland I can't see those mounds of ice moving before early Spring as it is forecast we'll have temperatures around freezing or below well into the New Year.

Just a thought.

18 comments:

JuliaM said...

Snow 'socks' are apparently a handy thing to have, being easier to apply than chains and less prone to shredding your tyres. And, so they claim, washable!

Dramfineday said...

Just had a browse for my tyres £130-210 per tyre without a fresh set of wheels. Boo Hoo.

M said...

I can vouch for the effectiveness of having winter tyres on your vehicle. My spouse and I have had Michelin Alpin tyres fitted on both our cars for the past 7 years and have never been stuck for traction or braking in snow or ice in all that time. Our smaller car is a Micra and it runs all year round with them fitted and has particularly good grip in snow. Our larger car has them fitted each year at the beginning of October and we take them off again at the beginning of April. As well as the winter tyres it has traction control and this has proved to be a very effective combination. The initial cost may be daunting but I can assure that it is well worth while from a safety point of view. This past week we went about our normal business with little difficulty during very heavy snowfall except on one occasion when we got stuck behind a car that clearly didn't have them fitted. So full marks for your suggestion that it should be compulsory to have them fitted in winter in Scotland.

John said...

Winter tyres now compulsory in Germany from 1 Nov each year

subrosa said...

I know about those Julia, but I'm told they're really only for emergencies as they can't be used on 'normal' surfaces.

They're expensive because they're not a permanent solution.

subrosa said...

Jings Dram. I had a word with my local place and £320 for four plus they could possibly get me second hand wheels. Then again, I've a cheap car. ;)

subrosa said...

Thank you M. Yes it's as much about everyone's safety really. I'm surprised you keep the winter tyres on the Micra all year. Why is that?

subrosa said...

Hello John. Thanks for that. I wasn't quite sure if it was law now and did a quick google without finding anything.

hector said...

i seem to remember when i was a lad my dad using 'town and country' tyres in the winter months.is that familiar to anyone.

subrosa said...

Haven't heard of those hector, but they could have been the forerunner to what's now known as winter tyres.

M said...

We started keeping the winter tyres on our Micra all year round after we spoke to an expert in tyre technology who advised us that it is perfectly safe to do so. As a mark of his confidence both he and his wife keep theirs on all year round also. The only thing we have noticed is that the tyres are slightly noisier on what is a small car when it is driven on dry roads but braking and steering are just the same as usual and nothing else such as premature tyre wear has occurred.

cynicalHighlander said...

We have Snowprox all year tyres not like the old style chunky winter tyres. There will be others manufacturers.

subrosa said...

Many thanks for replying M. You've helped me make a decision.

subrosa said...

I'm learning something every day about these tyres CH. Do you keep yours on all year too?

cynicalHighlander said...

Yes SB and haven't noticed any reduction in mpg still get about 68.

All Seeing Eye said...

Almost but not quite 100% off topic, I've just read elsewhere about someone's surprise that Scottish buildings don’t routinely have snow spikes on the roof.

They break up sliding snow into smaller pieces, thus ensuring that roof avalanches don’t occur; apparently in Hungary, from where this snippet of info came from, they’re pretty much essential.

http://compendium.travelvice.com/postfiles/european-roof-spikes.jpg

Is this person wrong and are they common in Scotland? Or is he right but they just aren't useful?

subrosa said...

Thanks for that CH. I'm going to make inquiries this week. Unfortunately there's only one tyre place locally but they're very good, so I'll ask what they suggest.

subrosa said...

I've never seen them here ASE, although I did in Norway years ago. In the current situation I think they would be useful because snow has been lying on roofs for well over a week now and it has compacted. If it drops and hits someone it could kill or seriously injure.

A young lass was hit like that the other day and she's still critical.

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