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Fewer drivers consider the benefits of winter tyres, research finds

Just one in five motorists believe it is important to swap their cars onto winter tyres, according to new independent research by carmaker Audi.

During road safety week, the vehicle manufacturer suggests drivers think about switching to the grippier tyre, although unlike in some European countries, there is no legal requirement to do so in the UK. The research showed that 61% of drivers do not plan to fit winter tyres this year.

For 44% of survey respondents, the absence of legal obligation was enough to convince them to pass up the added safety and protection winter tyres offer, while the impact on running costs of buying and maintaining an additional set of tyres was the spanner in the works for 40% of respondents. Additionally, the potential difficulties involved in storing the wheels and/or tyres out-of-season was the main impediment for 22% of participants.

With many drivers looking to save money, and the cost of vehicle parts, including tyres, increasing, the reluctance to fit winter tyres may only continue to grow in the coming years. 

Benefits of winter tyres

Audi highlights that a popular misconception that has often put motorists off the idea of cold weather tyres, is that the UK is rarely ‘wintery’ enough for their benefits to be realised. 

In reality, the carmaker says the performance of ‘conventional’ tyres can be noticeably impaired even at temperatures that are regularly recorded during a UK winter. The relatively hard rubber compound of tyres softens to enhance grip as their temperature increases during usage. But at temperatures below 7°C, the tyres cannot absorb sufficient heat and grip is diminished, which also impacts braking effectiveness.

Thanks to their special rubber compound, winter tyres offer maximum grip during wet, icy and snowy road conditions – greatly improving stopping distances, compared with conventional tyres, and maximising driving safety.

“The safety benefits of winter wheels and tyres are considerable from temperatures below 7°C – regularly seen in the UK as the winter months roll in,“ commented James Allitt, a member of the Leadership Team at Audi UK.

“Our research highlights misconceptions among UK drivers about their merits, and also understandable concerns about the cost and inconvenience of ownership, and I hope we have gone some way towards addressing these misconceptions. Fundamentally, though, I firmly believe that any driver able to make the switch to winter tyres will never regret doing so when they feel the difference they can make.”

Booking at a tyre hotel

While the cost is perhaps a main factor in preventing drivers considering winter tyres, another problem is the issue of storage. Whether owners have another set of wheels to simply swap, or they need to keep the tyres alone out of the way, it can be difficult to find a place to put such large, cumbersome items, especially if there is no home garage or garden.

However, an increasing number of garages are offering ‘Tyre Hotel’ services, where motorists can leave their summer and winter tyres for a fee, in secure and controlled conditions. These garages also offer a refitting service, meaning motorists only have one place to go each year to swap out their tyres when temperatures change.

Tyre manufacturer Pirelli has even taken things to the next level, with its ‘Grand Tyre Hotel‘ coming complete with an online booking service similar to upmarket London establishments.

Keeping vehicles safe this winter

The research was unveiled to coincide with Road Safety week. Led by industry charity Brake, it brings together thousands of schools, orgainisations and communities across the country to share important road safety messages. 

“It is really important that drivers make sure their vehicle is prepared for winter weather,” stated Mary Williams OBE, CEO of Brake. “At this time of year, there are often additional road hazards due to debris, ice and rain, increasing risk. 

“Every death and injury on roads is a tragedy, and Brake cares for the families bereaved and injured through the National Road Victim Service. Road Safety Week is an opportunity for us all to think about the victims and start putting safety first. By making sure our vehicles are winter-tyre ready, for example, we are doing something positive that protects our families and those around us and stops these horrifying and preventable crashes.” 

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