Sunday, 5 December 2010
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.