Monday, January 13, 2014

Opinion does not trump physics

Given the cold snap that the US and parts of Europe are going through right now, and given the number of YouTube videos and news reports showing people skating, crashing and generally playing at bumper cars when driving, you'd think drivers might learn. Opinion doesn't trump physics - it's really that simple. It doesn't matter if you think you're a good driver, or if you think that AWD will save you on snow and ice. It doesn't matter if you think you've left enough room to the vehicle in front. Opinion doesn't create grip and opinion doesn't wind back time.
The rubber in summer and all-season tyres loses most of its elasticity at +7°C / 45°F - well above freezing. Once the air and road are colder than that, you might as well have bald tyres for all the good it does. Combined with the different tread patterns, once you get on to snow or ice, it's inevitable that you're going to skid and slide. The tyres simply can't deal with it.
Snow tyres are not just for snow. I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago but it's true. The extra siping in the tread gives more surface area and more edges to afford more grip on slippery surfaces. The rubber compound is designed to retain it's elasticity well below 7°C - often down as far as -35°C or further. So even if there's no snow or ice, once it's cold, you owe it to yourself to put snow tyres on just to maintain a level of grip closer to what you're used to in the summer. Then modify your driving style - treat the accelerator like it has an egg between the pedal and your foot. Don't stomp on the brakes, don't give sudden, sharp steering inputs. Drive relaxed and watch your mirrors. Be aware of what's going on around you and you'll be fine.
Drive like you do in the summer, on summer tyres, and you'll pretty much end up on YouTube: