It doesn’t snow very often in Chelsea, but Made In Chelsea star Louise Thompson was keen to pick up some tips on winter driving before heading off for this winter’s ski season.
Louise was invited to the Tamworth Snowdrome, an indoor ski slope, by Volvo for a demonstration of the benefits of winter tyres when driving in snow. Two identical Volvo V40 D2 hatchbacks were prepared for the star — one on standard fit summer tyres, and one with winter tyres.
The results were enough to dispel any remaining doubts about the advantages of fitting winter tyres. During the test, Louise struggled to hit the five-metre mark on standard rubber but comfortably cruised past the 100-metre marker and continued on towards the summit as soon as she switched into the car fitted with winter tyres.
“I’m amazed that it makes such a difference,” she said. “One of the cars has amazing grip and can get all the way to the top, while the other can barely move, so if you’re going to be driving in the snow, I definitely think it’s important to have winter tyres.”
Winter tyres are at their most effective when temperatures drop below seven degrees. With the Met Office having recorded average temperatures for winter 2012 of just 3.3 degrees, winter tyres could have a huge role to play in reducing accidents and enhancing road safety.
They use a softer rubber compound than standard tyres which helps them stay more flexible in cold weather. As a result, they can grip the road surface far more effectively, retaining stability and traction, and boosting driver confidence that the car is able to cope with the conditions.
To put it into numbers, if a car is travelling at just 19mph on ice, winter tyres can reduce the average braking distance from 68 metres to 57 metres, while at 30mph on snow the figure falls from 43 metres to 35 metres.
A temporary alternative
While Louise was at the Snowdrome, she also tried driving up the slope in a V40 fitted with summer tyres and snow socks. These performed admirably and allowed her to cruise up the ski slope with relative ease — but it’s important to remember that they are a short term alternative that rapidly wears out when used on tarmac and requires fitting at the roadside when it’s cold, snowy and probably dark.
What’s more, snow socks don’t offer any of the benefits provided by winter tyres in cold, wet, sludgy or icy conditions — all of which are typical in British winters, even when it doesn’t snow.
Nick Connor, Volvo Car UK managing director said:
“We wanted to demonstrate, in the most severe conditions possible, the effectiveness of having winter tyres or snow socks fitted to your car. There’s definitely a degree of scepticism out there about how useful they can be, but this test dispels the myths once and for all.”
Winter tyres and snow socks could help reduce the 5,000 accidents the Department for Transport says were caused by treacherous winter weather in 2012. For drivers who have to drive regularly in winter, regardless of weather conditions, they really make sense — although if your summer tyres are nearly worn out, I’d be tempted to choose a set of all-season tyres, such as Goodyear Vector 4Seasons — which can stay on your wheels all year round and will provide a good balance of performance in winter and summer conditions. It’s what I do.