Some drivers of SUV cars with equipped with 4WD believe that even without winter or all-season tyres with winter homologation they will do great in the winter. Four-wheel drive is supposed to protect them from winter driving dangers and guarantee good traction regardless of weather conditions. They could not be further from the truth - 4WD gives advantage mainly while accelerating. Braking or turning are more difficult in an SUV car than in a passenger car because of the greater weight and the centre of gravity, which is higher off the ground. Driving on tyres unfit for weather conditions means gambling with our lives - The Report of European Commission proves that the use of winter tyres reduces the risk of an accident by 46 percent1.
There is only one true cure for skids on wet and icy surfaces in the winter: homologated winter or all-season tyres. 4WD does not improve car’s performance while braking on a slippery surface, it also is not a remedy for dangerous aquaplaning. The easiest way to improve road safety is driving responsibly and using tyres suitable for given weather conditions.
„We should remember that SUV cars are heavier and have a higher centre of gravity compared to that of a passenger car. Using good quality tyres is all the more important as SUVs need to have a good traction on the road – only tyres with winter homologation meet all safety requirements in rain, snow and when the water on the roads starts to freeze. Cars equipped with four-wheel drive start and accelerate better than cars in which the whole power is transferred only to the front or rear axle. But neither do the increasingly popular SUV cars have a shorter braking distance or better traction thanks to it, nor does it make them lighter either. Drivers of such cars have to be aware of the dangers posed by driving on unfit tyres in the winter” - says Piotr Sarnecki, Director General of Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA). „This also applies to owners of expensive SUVs, which are equipped with all possible safety systems – for their sensors to work properly, tyres need to provide a good traction. Summer tyres on wet and slippery surfaces in low temperatures can make our car unmanageable in a hazardous situation” – adds Sarnecki.
Tyres with winter homologation have a much softer rubber compound than summer tyres and thanks to the higher content of natural rubber and silica they do not harden in low temperatures. A special winter tread pattern allows the water to drain away faster and grips on snow, and thanks to and thanks to spacious, self-locking sipes it also ensures safety on dry roads. The rubber compound as well as the tread are key elements that increase traction and thus shorten the braking distance2.
Homologated winter tyres, that is those with the so-called Alpine symbol3 - the three-peak mountain and a snowflake symbol, give us a much larger security margin, that is shorter braking distance, which often mitigates the risk of an accident and saves lives. Summer tyres start to harden when the temperature drops to 7-10°C and their braking distance elongates considerably compared to the braking distance of winter tyres – the difference can be as big as 10 meters, that is two lengths of a big car. You should never skimp on safety. The commonly encountered M+S symbol only denotes tyres with a tread for mud and snow, and is given by the manufacturers in a virtually discretionary fashion. The M+S symbol alone, without the company of the Alpine symbol, does not denote neither the winter tyre nor the all-weather one, as it has not been granted the winter homologation.
The use of winter tyres has a positive impact on braking and traction4. Auto Express tests show us just how much tyres well suited to the temperature, wetness and slipperiness of the surface help the driver to control the vehicle and confirm the difference between winter and summer tyres, not only on an icy or snow-covered road, but also a wet one:
„We are pleased to see change in drivers’ attitude - 78% of them are in favour of introducing a requirement of driving on winter or all-season tyres with winter homologation5 – such legislation was introduced and is applied in 26 countries in Europe. The growing awareness of Polish drivers gives us hope for an increase in the number of people driving on winter or all-season tyres in the winter – now one-third of them puts themselves and others at risk while driving on summer tyres in the winter” – adds Piotr Sarnecki.
1 European Commission, Study on some safety-related aspects of tyre use, December 2014
2 How do tyres work?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLMwF5WR-us&feature=youtu.be&t=23s
3 It has been designated by UN Regulation No. 117 and introduced by EU Regulation 661/2009
5 Moto Data 2017 - March 2017