Hump Day: Spinning my wheels on winter driving safety

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

There’s one thing about buying new versions of gadgets and other major purchases such as vehicles. Often, it’s difficult to buy related accessories at first. They’re so new, the rest of the industry hasn’t caught up yet.

Case in point: I couldn’t buy a case for my new smartphone last year because it was a new model that was slightly larger than the previous model. No case would fit it. So, not only did I shell out big bucks for a new smartphone (and was bound by a three-year contract), I had to walk around with it completely unprotected for weeks before I could find a case that fit. The market hadn’t yet caught up with a line of accessories.

It drove me mad. I made a promise then and there to wait for a few months after the launch of a new smartphone so that accessories – especially good cases that fit on my belt — were available. I’m not saying that carrying it around in my pocket while it was on vibrate was unpleasant, but it’s just plain weird to be hoping for a wrong number all the time or walking up to perfect strangers and yelling at them to call you. Bzzzzzzzz… woohoo!

I bought a new vehicle a few months ago and the time has come for winter tires. I don’t buy new tires very often, thankfully, because those suckers are very expensive! I have an SUV, so they’re even more expensive than usual.

I’ve been shopping around for a few weeks, but it wasn’t easy to find the right size because my vehicle seemed to be one of the only models out there that took that odd size of tire. I did manage to find some, though, and I think I’ve made my decision — but the choice certainly wasn’t huge. The size is so rare (at least it was until this year) that even online searches proved to be virtually futile.

Luckily, as the weeks passed, the tire companies caught up with the (probably) hundreds of thousands of these new vehicles sold in the last little while and began offering a wider variety of winter tires available in the proper size. Even just a few weeks after I began looking, I was met with a quicker response from vendors than I did before. At first, it was “Oh dear, that’s an odd size!” Now, it’s “OK, let’s see what we have.”

Now, the debate moves to what kind of winter tires to get. Studded or non-studded. (I’ll be getting a lot of email by just asking, I’m sure.) I asked the question online and got people who swore one way or the other. It certainly wasn’t unanimous, although studded seemed to be an inch ahead in the informal survey.

The biggest complaint against studded tires was the noise factor. It’s true that driving on studded tires produces a loud-ish hum that takes some getting used to. I’ve always had winter studded tires, so the hum doesn’t bother me at all after the initial few hours of getting accustomed to it. After a day or so, I don’t even hear it. Other people, though, are driven batty by the sound and just can’t get used to it. For me, the noise factor is a non-issue.

Then there’s the tearing-up-theroads argument: studded tires are very hard on the roads. True, but a lot of things are hard on the roads. My main concern is my personal safety. So far, studs have served me quite well.

They do cost more — up to $20 more per tire for someone to sit in the tire shop and insert studs individually into each tire before it’s installed on your vehicle. Some tires come pre-studded, although that’s not every common. Often, they simply come with the small holes ready for studs if you choose to get them.

Then I started doing research. I swear, this question is right up there with searching for nutrition advice or whether or not to get an Apple or PC computer. Arguments go both ways. Everyone seems to make sense. And people are passionate!

One person in a tire shop says he swears by studded tires. Another says it’s a personal choice. Another isn’t convinced they’re necessary. One friend says I’ll die with them. Another friend says I’ll die without them. One article says they’re the best thing since sliced bread. Another says they’re useless on ice — or on pavement. I can’t remember. Either way, it’s all so confusing.

I know people who choose to drive an all-season tires year-round. It’s certainly not something I’d feel comfortable doing. I think I drove around on all-seasons during one winter when I had my first car. Never again. The year after, I invested in winter tires and have never driven on all-seasons in snow again. Way too stressful, if you ask me.

Plus, I don’t want to be one of those vehicles stopped at a red light on a bit at a bit of an incline that ends up spinning my wheels for 10 minutes to get going again. In an all-wheel drive SUV with four studded winter tires, there’s not much spinning at all. When I push the gas pedal, I want to move, not spin.

It’s not only about my safety, but the safety of others. We’ve all seen those cars spinning all over the road on tires that aren’t fit for winter driving. It’s just too dangerous. I owe it to myself and to others to be as safe as possible. I don’t want to worry constantly about being a danger. With that said, even though you have winter tires, it doesn’t mean you can drive like a maniac. Cautious winter driving caution is always the rule.

Now, I just have to rob a bank to pay for them. Safety doesn’t come cheap!

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.