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Everything you should know about driving on winter tires

04 Dec 17
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I’m considering getting winter tires this season for the first time. Can they feel different to push on? Will I need to adjust my driving? — Jackie, Kelowna, B.C.

As soon as you slip winter tires to your vehicle, you will need to get used to slipping less on the street. But that does not mean you’re invincible.

“You could drive the exact same and you might be amazed by the stopping distance you’ve got,” said Angelo DiCicco, general manager with Young Drivers of Canada. “They might be a bit noisier and they might feel slightly clunkier around turns — but you should see that as being sure-footed.”

Young Drivers did evaluations of five distinct kinds of tires on sheer ice, and the winter tire stopped four car lengths shorter, DiCicco said. “They are not magic, but they are close to magic,” he said.

A quick refresher on : While treads vary based on whether the tire was made to be better in certain conditions — such as snow, ice or slush — winter tires made in the past decade are made out of rubber that grips better on cold streets.

Unlike normal tires which get tougher — and lose their grip on the street — when it gets colder than 7 degrees Celsius outside, the rubber in winter tires is designed to remain soft so tires can keep their gripping power to -40C.

“It is surely the single most important differentiation between today’s winter tires and winter tires of yore,” stated Glenn Maidment, president of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), an industry group representing .

Despite the fact that winter tires assist you stick better to streets, you need to stick to being careful, Maidment said.

“There is no difference in how you drive — but what you do not need is for people to have overconfidence and believe they could somehow test the limits of the driving and the car,” Maidment said. “They always have to drive to the state of the streets — and if they do, they will realize their steering is sharper, they will have more control and better stopping distanc”

If roads are especially arctic, heavy with new snow — or if it is tough to see — which might mean , with or without winter tires.

“You will need to keep that additional level of security,” DiCicco said. “You need to make a compromise when you buy winter tires and select whether they are excellent on snow, really good on ice or really good on slush — so your choice might not be ideal for that unexpected patch of ice”

Greater likelihood of getting rear-ended?

In TRAC’s of winter tire use across Canada, 60 percent of motorists outside Quebec — where winter tires are compulsory — said they are using winter tires.

While that’s up from 35 percent in 1998, it suggests that even if you have winter tires, you’re going to be sharing the road with motorists that do not.

“I liken it to inoculation,” Maidment said. “If everybody is inoculated, everybody is safe. If just two-thirds are, they are not.”

In actuality, because you are going to be quitting shorter on winter tires compared to the motorist behind you may expect, your odds of becoming rear-ended are greater, DiCicco said.

“The man behind you might be cheap and does not know that investing up front on winter tires will prolong the life span of his summer tires,” DiCicco said. “And so he can not stop as quickly at his summer tires as possible on your winter tire and he could hit you.”

And it doesn’t matter whether this driver has all-wheel drive (AWD). It doesn’t really make automobiles safer on winter streets. It enables you to get going quicker in deep snow, but it will not help with quitting. In actuality, cars with AWD are usually heavier and may have more momentum — and take more time to stop — compared to cars without it.

That is why it’s important to keep additional distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you at the winter, interval, DiCicco said.

How close should you be? It’s difficult to correctly judge metres or car lengths when you are driving, DiCicco said.

Instead, once the car in front of you pushes beyond something — a road sign, shadow of an overpass or a bus shelter, state — count out the amount of seconds before you pass it.

On perfect summer streets under perfect conditions (“it is sunny but not too sunny”), you should be after a minimum of 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you at city speeds, three seconds at highway speeds and four seconds on entry ramps, where cars often slow or stop abruptly, DiCicco said.

“In the winter, you would like to add one second to all these — so, three, four and five,” DiCicco said. “Those additional seconds can allow you to mitigate the risk in the other drivers that do not have their winter tires.”

Even with that 3 seconds of distance in town, once you’re stopping at an intersection or slowing to turn, start slowing down early to provide the driver behind you sufficient time to respond and stop, DiCicco said.

“When you come to an amber light, you will need to slow down sooner,” DiCicco said. “Monitor your mirrors — as the man behind you’re [sliding] toward you.”

If you have left enough space in front of you, you are able to move ahead three or four yards to permit the vehicle behind you to slide to a stop.

“You move up 1 space and everyone gets to go home safely,” DiCicco said. “It is not based on your performance or your own skills, which might be stellar — it is being a great neighbour and maintaining that extra distance for someone who screws up. And, hopefully, someone will do the exact same for you.”

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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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