The Case For Snow Tires In Minnesota
At Hazelton Law Group, we have nearly five decades of combined experience representing our neighbors. We proudly serve people in the Bemidji area who have suffered injuries in winter car accidents.
As Minnesotans, we’re no strangers to the challenges that winter brings, especially when it comes to driving. The first snowfall, while beautiful, brings with it a flurry of traffic accidents as drivers readjust to slippery conditions. The reality is that no vehicle, not even those equipped with four-wheel drive, is immune to the hazards of winter driving.
One thing drivers can do to significantly enhance their safety on the roads this winter is to replace their regular tires with snow tires. Snow tires, also known as winter tires, are specifically designed to perform well in cold, snowy conditions. Unlike all-season tires that may suffice in light snow conditions, snow tires are engineered to handle significant snowfall with these features:
- Enhanced traction: Snow tires offer superior traction due to their unique tread designs and deeper treads. These features reduce the buildup of snow and slush, a vital factor when you need to stop suddenly.
- Flexible rubber for cold temperatures: The rubber used in snow tires remains flexible even during severe cold when the tread on all-season tires stiffens, reducing traction. This flexibility ensures that your tires maintain a strong grip on the road, even in extremely cold weather.
- Reduced risk of hydroplaning: Hydroplaning – skidding on wet surfaces – is a significant risk in snowy conditions. While slowing down and avoiding standing water are practical precautions, the enhanced tread on snow tires also helps prevent it.
- Accident prevention: While we can’t control the traction of other drivers’ tires, we can certainly control our own. Equipping your vehicle with snow tires can prevent you from being stuck in a ditch or causing an accident.
Limitations Of Snow Tires
Despite the proven effectiveness of winter tires on snow-packed roads, it’s important to remember that they are not a magic solution for winter driving dangers. Before you purchase a set, you should consider the following:
- The ice myth: It’s common to see “ice rink” tests demonstrating the superiority of winter tires over all-season tires in terms of stopping distance. However, these tests often occur at slow speeds on flat, uniform surfaces – a far cry from the real-world conditions of hills, banked roads and higher speeds. In reality, while winter tires do offer some advantages on icy roads, they are not a foolproof solution. Like all-season tires, winter tires can and do slide on slick roads. Driving at normal speeds on icy or snowy roads can still lead to loss of control, regardless of your tires. Overconfidence in the capabilities of winter tires can lead to unsafe driving and potentially accidents.
- The cost of winter tires: A good set of winter tires can cost anywhere from around $450 for small vehicles to $800-$1,000 or more for larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs. Choosing to use winter tires can also involve additional expenses beyond the initial outlay since drivers may have to pay for mounting, balancing and extra tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensors.
The Seasonal Tire Swap
Switching to winter tires can be accomplished in two ways:
- Using a second set of wheels: Some drivers purchase a second set of wheels for their winter tires, making the seasonal swap easier and cheaper. However, this requires an up-front investment in a second set of wheels and TPMS sensors.
- Using the vehicle’s stock wheels: This saves drivers the upfront expense of a second set of wheels and TPMS sensors but requires ongoing mounting and balancing costs. Repeated remounting can also put additional stress on the tires, potentially affecting their longevity.
You’ll need space to store the second set of tires. Some tire shops offer storage services for an additional fee if space is an issue.
When To Switch To Snow Tires
In Minnesota, especially northern Minnesota, where snow in October is not unheard of, it’s recommended to have snow tires installed by mid-November.
Remember, your safety and that of others on the road are paramount. While snow tires significantly improve your vehicle’s handling and performance in winter conditions, they are not a substitute for safe, attentive driving. Remember, too, that even the best snow tires are no guarantee against winter car accidents, especially when other drivers fail to take seasonal precautions.