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Winter Tire Safety Tips
Did you know that in 2017, there were more driving fatalities attributed to tire-related causes than to cell phone distractions? Your tires are the only contact between your car and the road, so choosing the right kind of tires can make all the difference to your safety. At any given time, the amount of contact your tires make with the road surface is only about the size of a large hand.
Summer tires are made for warm weather and are not designed for below-freezing temperatures or driving on ice and snow.
All-season tires can handle a variety of road conditions but have limited ice and snow capabilities.
Winter tires are made of a softer rubber compound than summer or all-season tires, with thin cuts in the tread. This gives them a better grip on the road, which makes them the safest choice for driving in winter. (The softer rubber will wear out faster on warm pavement, however, so be sure to switch back to regular tires in the spring.)
- Winter tires can allow you to stop up to 50% faster on ice and snow. This is equivalent to stopping 2-3 car lengths sooner.
- Certified winter radials will be identified by this symbol:
In a test conducted by Tirerack.com, researchers found that it took a vehicle equipped with summer and all-season tires longer to come to a complete stop on an icy surface than a vehicle equipped with winter tires.
When the temperatures outside drop, so does the air pressure in your tires, because colder air takes up less space. This can leave tires underinflated, which can lead to blowouts and rapid tread wear. But if you add air to your tires yourself, be careful not to overinflate them—this can result in reduced traction and braking ability. Overinflated tires have a smaller contact patch with the road than properly inflated tires (and remember, the contact even properly inflated tires have with the road is only the size of a large hand). Make sure your tires are inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations (you can find these in your owner’s manual or on the driver’s side door edge). During the winter months, check your tire pressure weekly.
Driving on worn tires without adequate tread is dangerous in any season, but especially in winter. Examine the tread on your tires for wear when you check tire pressure, rotate tires, and before you take long trips. Use the penny test to check your tread.
- THE PENNY TEST: Insert a penny, Lincoln’s head down, into the tread of your tire. If you can see Abe’s entire head, there’s not enough tread left to drive safely. (Tires should have at least 1/8” of tread for safe driving.)
- To help your tires wear evenly, get them rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
- For more information on buying and maintaining tires, visit the National Traffic Safety Administration’s tire information page at https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/tires.