Icy Road Safety.com - Prepare for Weather's Most Underrated Hazard
                Friday, December 13, 2013 - 8:00AM CST

Winter tires: not the "silver bullet" solution for preventing icy crashes

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
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Part of my research on the road icing subject has involved getting a feel for widely-held perceptions and beliefs. One of the most common I see is the stout belief that winter tires are the 'silver bullet' solution to the road icing hazard. "If everyone bought winter tires, these accidents won't happen". I will agree that winter tires are good, in the sense that they do improve traction and handling on snow and ice. But unfortunately, they aren't the solution to preventing accidents, for these two main reasons:

  • Winter tires don't make it safe to travel at highway speeds on icy roads.

    Most serious and fatal accidents on icy roads occur at highway speeds. Evidence shows that a major factor in many of these accidents is overconfidence in the capabilites of one's vehicle and its safety features, which leads to driving too fast for the conditions. Again, there's no doubt that winter tires will improve a car's traction and handling on snow and ice. But they don't improve it enough to make it safe to travel above 50mph on icy roads. One still will need to slow down!

    Furthermore, winter tires don't sufficiently improve a vehicle's ability to stop or slow on icy roads enough to allow normal-speed travel, and fishtails that trigger a loss of control can still happen (the higher the speed, the easier it happens). A car with the best winter tires will still be a part of the multi-car pileups that happen due to traffic suddenly slowing or stopping. Start down a steep snow-covered hill with great winter tires, and you'll be sliding into the pile of vehicles at the bottom like everyone else!

  • Most accidents happen in parts of the US that only see icy roads a handful of times each year..

    The Great Plains and Midwest have some of the highest fatality rates during icy road conditions, but these conditions are present in these regions only a few days during the winter. In most years, snow and ice covers the road less than a dozen times, and usually for less than 12 hours at a time. On dry pavement, winter tires wear quickly and have worse handling characteristics than all-season tires. So, for most people, going through the significant expense of purchasing and installing winter tires for these few instances doesn't make any economic and practical sense.

    There are places where snow and ice is present on roads frequently enough to make winter tires a good investment. These would include northern states, lake effect snow belts and higher elevations. But again, even the car with winter tires doesn't magically become immune to accidents.

Again, this isn't to disparage winter tires. They do help, and if you live in places where snow and ice on roads is common, they are a great thing to have. Just remember that they don't make a vehicle invincible, nor do they change the fundamental action needed to prevent an accident: simply slowing down to a safe speed when the conditions are present.

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

Great tips keep them coming.
- Posted by Kathleen from Centreville, VA
Studded and modern "studless" Winter tires work on ice.
- Posted by Colin from Michigan
Flott illustrasjon til odrene dine! Joda, kjenner beskrivelsen. Ve6ret i dag er av samme slag, meget lavt skydekke og regnet for en time siden er ge5tt over til sludd/snf8...Gleder meg til e5 ff8lge "e5rstidsbildene" dine...
- Posted by Rahul from tXkblQLE
In norway we USE winter tires know how to drive and laugh every time you guys drives at 50mph and belive this will go well with summer tires on. In norway IT is illegal to drive with summer tires when the road is icy. Could lose certifikat then.
- Posted by Bent Sjursen

Recent Blog Posts
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- New educational winter driving videos released, more planned - November 21, 2016
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- December 30-January 2 Oklahoma/Texas icing event sequence - January 2, 2015
- Freezing rain disaster - November 22, 2014 - November 23, 2014
- Report: Major winter storm in the Deep South, 1/28 - January 30, 2014
- Report: High Risk road icing event in south Texas/Louisiana - January 26, 2014
- Winter tires: not the solution for preventing icy crashes - December 13, 2013
- Preliminary low estimate of December 3-8 toll - December 9, 2013
- The Top 7 Icy Road Myths - December 6, 2013
- Aren't icy road crashes caused by driving too fast for conditions, not ice and snow? - November 14, 2012
- Road icing news for January-February 2012 - February 25, 2012
- Commentary on the recent viral WV pileup video - January 8, 2012
- Significant road icing outbreak: Monday, January 2, 2012 - January 2, 2012
- No vehicle can safely go highway speeds on icy roads - December 23, 2011
- Another case for "Road Ice Warnings": December 8-9, 2011 light snow event - December 10, 2011
- A big thanks to those helping raise road icing awareness - November 18, 2011
- 15 road icing deaths in the past week: estimating the full impact - November 4, 2011
- 2011-2012 road ice season in the US already in full swing - October 22, 2011
- Coming this winter: another 2011 tornado season toll - July 21, 2011

Past Blog Archives
- April 2010 - January 2011 posts
- December 2009 - March 2010 posts
- November 2009 posts
- October 2009 posts
- March-April 2009 posts
- February 2009 posts
- January 2009 posts
- December 2008 posts

Educational Winter Driving Videos - Watch for Free:

Video: How to correct a slide on an icy road (and how to prevent them)Video: Icy Bridges: Weather's underrated killerVideo: Deadliest Weather: Freezing Rain

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458
Deaths in the US
from icy roads
2009-2010 winter
[ More Statistics ]

477
Deaths in the US
from icy roads
2008-2009 winter
[ More Statistics ]

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