My Near Miss Taught Me Summer Tyres Should Be Illegal In Snow

Driving around at 15mph just about in sight of the car in front is not an adequate solution for driving in snow. Sometimes, it takes a near miss to shake some sense into you
My Near Miss Taught Me Summer Tyres Should Be Illegal In Snow

As I write this I’ve just got back from a photoshoot with a new car in North Wales. It was just me, today; my drivers for the tracking shots went home last night, which meant I was driving the factory-fresh 67-plater.

Those of you who live in the UK but not underground will know it’s been snowing a bit in that part of the world. Quite a lot, actually, at least in British terms. The roof of my own car had about five inches of the stuff on its roof when I came to swap back to that.

My Near Miss Taught Me Summer Tyres Should Be Illegal In Snow

Don’t worry, this is going somewhere: the local council or councils had gritted the roads, but not enough. Nowhere near enough. The A5, for God’s sake, the main A-road into North Wales, was thick with snow and ice.

I haven’t driven with summer tyres on snow since the time I slid a regulation-shod Nissan GT-R around the ice-racing track Top Gear once used in the French ski resort of Val Thorens. They wanted to keep our speed down, the instructors said. Well, it was my decision this time. I’d been going slowly enough anyway, or so I thought, but when I attempted to stop (gently), I found myself skidding towards the back of a Mitsubishi Outlander. I wasn’t going to stop in time.

Sheepishly trying to brush off the fact that you’ve just got it badly wrong is not a good look. When I stopped I was on the wrong side of the road, level with Mr Outlander having very obviously just steered out of disaster’s icy grip. ABS-related code brown isn’t ideal, either.

My Near Miss Taught Me Summer Tyres Should Be Illegal In Snow

The next few miles passed by in a terrifying realisation of just how little grip those ice-bottomed, slush-topped surfaces actually had. Repeatedly I’d brake to test the grip levels, and every damn time the summer tyres would instantly lose grip, the wheels locking as soon as pad bit disc. It took a whole heap of repeat tests to convince myself that it really was as bad as it seemed.

When it snows, summer tyres suck. Hard. The car I was photographing (and driving) was a big 4x4. You definitely notice the extra traction, but braking grip? None. It was like trying to stop yourself sliding down a massive water slide only to find it’s been greased.

There I was, slipping down the road like a buttered otter. And now here I am, hopefully warning at least one person before an accident happens. I saw at least 10 near-misses on one two-hour drive. How many hits were there? Enough to keep insurance companies busy, I reckon.

My Near Miss Taught Me Summer Tyres Should Be Illegal In Snow

Those tyres were so unfathomably woeful on snow that I can only reach one conclusion. Summer tyres should be illegal in sub-zero temperatures, or at least on ice or snow. If you ever find yourself on a surface with the friction coefficient of a wet cat coated in lard and there’s a 7.5-tonne truck six inches off your bumper, you’ll think so too. Sure, everyone on summer tyres could just drive at 15mph a quarter of a mile off the car in front, but, err, no?

Winter rubber is already a legal requirement in parts of Europe, and it’s a heavily encouraged one in others. In Germany there’s the ‘von O bis O’ rule, or ‘from October until Easter.’ It’s recommended that drivers switch to winter tyres for that whole period, and if you’re caught without them in icy or snowy conditions then it’s fine-time for you, miladdo.

My Near Miss Taught Me Summer Tyres Should Be Illegal In Snow

Compare the summer-booted press car with my own, later that day. My workhorse wears Michelin CrossClimates (bought at retail price, before you suspect a press blag). I cleared the inches of snow off and made sizeable ridges on all sides of the car, which was facing uphill. The front-wheel drive car, in first gear, pulled itself up and out of its snowy boundary without so much as a quick slip of a front wheel. If it could have become a meme it would have turned to me and sprouted a joint and sunglasses.

Do the world a favour. If you live somewhere where it snows, even occasionally, think about winter tyres or a best of both worlds compromise like the Michelins. If you don’t, one day you might end up getting a very close look at the back end of a Mitsubishi.



Unfortunately people not putting on winter tires is a common thing here in Canada, even though it’s highly illegal

12/09/2017 - 15:49 |
26 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Supposed to get snow here, I don’t even have snows on my wrx yet. Have to do off rims :(

12/09/2017 - 16:54 |
6 | 2
Olivier (CT's grammar commie)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Common? In which province do you live? In Quebec most people I know already have their winter tires installed since late October/early November, and the few who didn’t generally got their lesson (I was removing the snow from my car about a month ago, I was parked perpendicularly next to a street, and I just did hear a “BROUMF”, only to find a CTS looking at me, in my direction in a way that is impossible to achieve unless you lose control, which was the case here, as he just slided on at least 30-40 feet; found out he still had his summer tires).

12/09/2017 - 21:30 |
10 | 2
Zonda Man (Full Send Squad)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

We run winters on our cars all year long. No accidents in 15 years

12/11/2017 - 14:27 |
2 | 0

coming soon on ct store

12/09/2017 - 15:50 |
304 | 2
Tomislav Celić

Summer gear is illegal in Croatia between 1.11. and 1.3. Snow is only here in January/February.

12/09/2017 - 15:53 |
18 | 4

It’s not illegal. You just need to have chains in the trunk and summer tyres with minimum of 4 mm depth.

12/09/2017 - 18:22 |
6 | 6
JenstheGTIfreak (pizza)

Just people being lazy ignorant f*cks who don’t put winter tires because they think it is too expensive. Or then they think they’re clever by using all weathers, but they are shit in no matter what the conditions are. I heard Germany is planning on banning them and that has my 100% support. Especially right now because we had very sudden unexpected snow in this area.

12/09/2017 - 15:59 |
16 | 4

Klopt helemaal. Mijn vader koopt altijd gewoon set Winter en normaal. Veel veiliger.

12/09/2017 - 16:53 |
0 | 0

Banning all weather tires, or banning summer tires in winter?

12/09/2017 - 21:31 |
0 | 0

banning all weather tyres would be stupendous. I have all weather and they are so useful here in the north because we can have very suddenly changing conditions and last year we had no snow except for one single day, in such a case its best to have tyres that are good in the rain , this year for example it has been raining nearly without a break for the whole last week. Plus we had ice in april the other year. IN APRIL everyone driving a winter tyres in the winter and summer in the summer was screwed in april but those with whole year tyres were all ok. You can’t suddenly change your tyres when you want to drive to work in april and from one day to the other the weather completely turned 180 degrees around. Not to mention the financial aspects.. you might not realize but not everyone has the extra 400€ laying around to buy a second set of tyres. And keep them where? When i lived for rent i had no place to put a whole set of tyres: i never had issues in the ice with my whole year tyres even though at that time i had to drive up at quite inclined hill to get home in icy slidy conditions many times where others just spun out and parked their car at the bottom of the hill. having wide enough tyres and a good profile depth is much more important on ice than having slim winter tyres with possibly less depth. Its all just a question what works for you in the area you live. and we never have thick snow so im doing great with mine.

12/10/2017 - 13:28 |
2 | 0

I live in the south, best I can hope for is a small patch of black ice on occasion.

12/09/2017 - 16:07 |
0 | 0
Manuel Kunz

Well here in Germany summer tires are illegal if snow is on the street.

12/09/2017 - 16:10 |
0 | 0

that’s what stands in the article?

12/09/2017 - 17:23 |
0 | 0
Callum Luker

My car came with winters on the front, up until yesterday I hated them. Now I’m not buying new wheels or tyres until April 😅

12/09/2017 - 16:19 |
0 | 0

They are illegal now

12/09/2017 - 16:28 |
0 | 0

Thats why I wait form my Winter Tyres to arrive before picking up my i30 N

12/09/2017 - 16:30 |
0 | 0

I once drove up a slip road in icy conditions and it seemed one of two lanes was gritted. As I was heading right (in darkness) I took the second lane. Immediately, as my wheel touched the second lane I completely lost control at 70mph.

I spun the wheel back and fourth to correct it, dabbing the brakes to bite briefly and spin the other way. Eventually the car found grip and I slammed the brakes on to the red light at the top of the slip road. Car rolls up next to me in the first lane and I casually sit there as if he didn’t just witness us nearly die.

What I’m saying is, SUMMER TYRES SUCK.

12/09/2017 - 16:36 |
76 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ordered my first set of winter tyres for my Volvo last week
Very proud of myself right now

12/09/2017 - 21:05 |
10 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


12/10/2017 - 00:17 |
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