Millions of drivers riding on All-Season tires will be unprepared for
winter this year, say experts at The Tire Rack. Government statistics
show some 70 percent of winter injuries and deaths related to snow and
ice occur in automobiles.
Even with All-Season tires and electronic driver's aids, most vehicles are not fully equipped to keep a good grip on the road in winter driving conditions. Tests conducted at The Tire Rack's winter tire testing facility showed that All-Season tires -- fitted to more than 80 percent of the nation's more than 200 million cars, SUVs, and minivans -- offer little traction on packed snow and ice. Summer tires often found on high-performance and luxury vehicles provide almost no traction at all.
The tests also showed that, contrary to popular belief, expensive anti-lock brake (ABS), traction control (TCS), and stability control systems do not actually increase traction.
"The problem is most cars don't have the right footwear," says John Rastetter, The Tire Rack's director of tire information. "People wear boots to safely walk through snow and ice, so why should your car be any different?" He points out electronic driver's aids only maximize whatever traction the tires can provide, and that ABS can increase stopping distances when traction is at a minimum. "Even all-wheel-drive is only as good as the tires will allow," he emphasizes.
The solution, says Rastetter, is to install a set of Winter Tires specifically designed to work in winter's cold, slushy, and slippery conditions. "Today's Winter Tires are a far cry from what you might remember as 'snow tires'," he says, referring to technological advances that give today's Winter Tires the ability to stay flexible in freezing temperatures and grip sheer ice without metal studs or chains.
Complete test results, an easy-to-use Tire Decision Guide, an assortment of educational videos, and answers to many winter driving questions are all available for free online at www.tirerack.com/winter
Better Grip, Safer Ride:
Tire Rack tests show rear-wheel-drive passenger vehicles equipped with Winter Tires offer drivers up to 21 percent more traction over All-Season tires, while the capabilities of all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles improved 14 percent.
Similar tests conducted in Europe show Winter Tires can cut braking distances 47 percent over Summer Tires; in fact, when temperatures were above freezing, Winter Tires also reduced braking distances. At 44*F, on a road as wet as might be experienced during a snow melt, the braking distance from 56 mph was reduced 15 feet - a full car length.
In 2005, NHTSA reported 264,000 car accidents occurred in snow or sleet. A set of Winter Tires costs as little as $300 and -- depending on driving habits -- can last three or four winters. That means many drivers can significantly reduce their risk of being in a winter-time accident for $100 per year or less, significantly less than the deductible of most insurance policies for just one incident.
The Tire Rack, headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, claims to be America's largest independent tire tester and consumer direct source for tires, wheels, and performance accessories. The team of more than Test Drivers tests tires from every major tire manufacturer on the company's state-of-the-art, 10-acre test facility and posts findings on the company's website at www.tirerack.com, to help consumers make an educated decision on a tire, wheel, or performance accessory purchase.
Since 1979, the family-run company has grown from a single-point retail store in Indianapolis to encompass over 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space across the country. A diverse and broad in-stock inventory from 16 major tire and 31 wheel brands can be delivered anywhere in the country in two days or less, and more than than 5,100 independent recommended Installers are available nationwide to service customers' needs.
By Brandy Schaffels