Snow Tires Save Lives and Money

1971 Mustang after Crash

1971 Mustang after Crash

With the winter season here, the risk of crashing sky rockets. Snow tires could be the best way to decrease the risk of an accident this winter. They are specially made with a different compound of rubber and tread pattern that optimizes traction on the snow and ice. While snow tires may be a little pricey, the safety benefits and potential savings might outweigh that cost.  

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of all-weather related crashes and fatalities are due to winter condition. While that doesn't seem like a lot, winter mostly affects northern states and is only a quarter of the year. Winter is a dangerous time of the year for many drivers, especially new drivers in high school. New drivers, between the age of 16-19, are 3 times more likely to crash than experienced, older drivers. Combining inexperience and icy road conditions could result in a potentially nasty collision.  

Photo by Hopson Road

Photo by Hopson Road

The best way of preventing an accident in snowy road conditions is driving slowly and keeping the most contact on the road. Chandler Hatch, service manager at Tire Discounters, described the benefits of snow tires, “You don’t slide on the ice, you slide on the water on top of the ice. Snow tires are made of a special rubber that take the water off the ice.” The science behind is snow tires is the opposite of an ice skate. An ice skate melts the top layer of ice and slides across the ice, snow tires have little groves that move the water off the layer of ice. They are also slightly porous and wicks the water molecules off the ice. The tires are also made of a special compound of rubber that stays soft in cold weather, while all season tires become stiff, which decrease traction.  

Photo by TireRack.com

Photo by TireRack.com

A big misconception with winter weather is that AWD, All Wheel Drive, means that snow tires are unnecessary. The problem with AWD with all seasons tires is that it will help you accelerate, but not stop. In a test performed by TireRack.com, they tested an AWD Toyota on an ice rink with all seasons and the other with snow tires. The all seasons could accelerate to 60 ft in 3.70 seconds, while the snow tires could do the same test in 3.10 seconds. While that difference is not all that impressive, the snow tires greatly outperform the all seasons when braking. From 12 mph, the all-season tires took a massive 57 ft to stop, the snow tires stopped in an impressive 33.7 feet. That is 69% better performance when braking, which could be the difference between a collision and safely stopping.

Another test from Edmunds.com, an automotive review site similar to Kelley Blue Book, performed a braking test from 60 mph on pure snow. The snow tires took 362 ft to stop, while the all seasons took 421 feet. That is 16% better which isn’t a huge number like the 69% from the previous test, but 16% is 60 feet, or about 4 car lengths.  This could be the difference between stopping safely and experiencing a collision.

Photo by Ford

Photo by Ford

The biggest problem with snow tires that a lot of people have is the price. You will have to invest $600 - $1200 depending on how you want to set up your car. The tires themselves are going to cost about $600 if you get a set of nice tires. The first time you buy them, they will mount them for free, however each switch from snow tires back to all seasons tires will cost about $100. That’s why investing in an entire new set of rims is what was recommended by Mr. Hatch. “If you have to switch tires twice a year, that is going to be $200 and that is going to add up, if you want to save money in the long run, buy a new set of rims and switch the wheels yourselves.” Rims can be expensive so finding them used on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist will save you loads of money.  

Deciding whether snow tires are worth it or not you must consider the possible savings. With the risk of crashing so high during winter months and teenagers being 3 times more likely to crash, an accident is highly probable. Spending $1200 this year to buy a set of rims and snow tires may be expensive now, but a collision can cost upwards of $2000 or more, not to mention the possibility of premiums to rise after reporting a collision to your insurance company. “For people in Cincinnati, I don’t know if a set of snow tires are necessary because it depends on the year. If you can afford them, I would recommend buying them, and if your car is rear wheel drive, it is a must. With the new technology that tire companies are making their all seasons with, you should be fine with a set of nice Michelins or Continentals, but it is all up to preference,” Mr. Hatch laid out.   

Whether or not you should buy snow tires is up to you and your wallet. The potential savings can be huge and not to mention saving your life. When considering buying the tires, the weather outside may be a factor. If it is warm and there is no snow, you might think that you won’t need them because at this moment they aren’t needed. Sometimes weather can shift quickly, and temperatures can drop. In this case, it may be too late so if you are considering them, buy them earlier rather than later. 

Dennis Cowell