Winterizing Your Car – Worth it or Worthless?
Winter weather is notorious for creating bad driving conditions. Snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain, either alone or together, make any drive a challenge. People are urged to take preventative measures, like using snow tires or snow chains, but do they really reduce accidents and costly insurance claims? Or are they just examples of automotive industry hype to get us to buy more of their products when what’s needed is simply safer driving?
The answer to the first question is a resounding “yes.” Snow tires stop approximately 40% faster than regular tires, which is critical in poor driving conditions. In fact, snow tires are so effective in reducing accidents that they are now mandatory for all drivers in Quebec (and when it comes to dealing with and driving in snowy weather, Canadians know what they’re talking about). That’s news for North America, but the Quebecois are only following the lead of such snow-friendly countries as Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden. It works, too: According to the Socit de l’Assurance Automobile du Qubec, after the implementation of the snow tire law the number of winter car accident fatalities fell almost 10% compared to the same time period the year before.
Another important weapon to be used in the fight against winter driving conditions are snow chains. Sometimes called tire chains, these are extremely effective devices used in very snowy weather – and in several states their use is mandatory in certain conditions. In California, drivers must carry snow chains in their cars to navigate winter roads. If they don’t, they won’t be permitted to continue. Comparable laws exist in Colorado and other snow-prone states.
Studded tires are also very effective in maintaining greater control during winter conditions, but their use is fairly controversial. Studded tires get their names from the steel studs embedded in the tire’s grooves, and while they make driving safer, they cause significant damage to road surfaces. The damage is severe enough that they are banned in numerous places, like Michigan and Minnesota, but are still legal in places like Washington.
Despite the data, you may be wondering if these winter-weather driving accessories are really worth it. After all, they can cost a lot – a high-end set of 4 snow tires can cost as much as $146 per tire, and snow chains run from about $25 all the way up to $2,300 – and their manufacturers would like nothing more than to see you purchase every tire safety product that you can. It takes some healthy skepticism to know when someone is trying to scare you into buying something you don’t need, but nonetheless, for most people just one scary, snowy spin-out or even fishtail is all it takes to convince them they need to get proper snow tires and other winter-weather driving accessories.
As pricey as snow tires and snow chains can be, it’s important to remember that they’ll save you a fortune in car accident repair bills and increased auto insurance premiums. In fact, they can save you money if your car insurance provider offers a discount for using them. To verify it, be sure to check with your insurance agent.
Are you spending money on winter accessories this year? Did winter gear ever save you?