Stopping Distances in Icy Conditions and Winter

By David Sholicar

Many drivers underestimate the extra distance they need in order to stop on a wet or icy road. Winter tyres can make the difference between being able to stop in time to avoid an accident, or finding the car sliding into a collision on a slippery road.

driving in cold winter conditions

The Safer Roads organisation promotes road safety for all drivers. They estimate that stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer on icy roads, and remind drivers that the way in which your car handles and brakes will be dependent on how good the tyres are.
Good in this sense tends to mean fit for purpose. A light summer tyre is not an appropriate choice for winter motoring because it's not designed to cope with winter road conditions. Why is this?

Tread performance in lower temperatures

As the temperature falls, the tread on an ordinary summer or all-weather tyre begins to harden. This has the effect of reducing the tyre's grip on an icy or snowy road and accounts for the increased winter car stopping distances.
Winter tyres, especially from premium manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Pirelli, are made from a softer material. This allows them to resist hardening and stay flexible, even in low temperatures. The flexibility increases grip and traction on the road. This is particularly important when there are invisible hazards, such as black ice, that you may not see until the vehicle encounters them.

In addition, winter tyres have a specific tread pattern that's different from summer or all-season tyres. The grooves are wider and the edge of the tread contains narrow slits. Together, these two features give greater grip when driving in ice and snow.
On the continent, where snow and ice are a predictable feature of winter, many countries make it a legal requirement that vehicles are fitted with winter tyres. So bear this in mind if you are setting off on a skiing trip.
Even with winter tyres, check the tread if bad weather is forecast, or pop into one of our local garages and ask them to check the tyres for you.

Don't forget that although good winter tyres enable you to stop more easily, you still need to leave more distance between you and the car in front when driving conditions are poor. While this isn't always easy on crowded roads, bear in mind that the speed limit is the maximum when road conditions are good. If the road is icy, or there's freezing fog, snow or hail, you'll need to reduce your speed considerably.
When the forecast tells us that bad weather is heading towards us, can be a good idea to change to winter tyres. At your local Protyre garage, qualified fitters will have no trouble doing this quickly and efficiently. Simply use the filter boxes in our tyre selector to look up suitable tyres for your vehicle. It could make the difference between stopping in time and being involved in an accident.

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About the author

Article Author Photo
By David Sholicar
David is the National Retail Operations Manager for Protyre. One of David’s areas of responsibility and expertise is dealing with the DVSA and MOT’s for Protyre. As the Authorised Examiner Designate Manager ( AEDM ) David deals with applications for changes to the many Vehicle Testing Stations ( VTS’s) including managing the growth of the Number of MOT testing stations that Protyre operate, allocating MOT tester roles, and monitoring the MOT Test logs to ensure that Protyre MOT standards are maintained as the best in the industry.
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