MOTORISTS are shunning winter tyres with just one in five UK drivers thinking it is important to swap tyres in colder months, independent research by Audi UK has revealed.
As Road Safety Week gets under way the revelation serves as a timely reminder of the importance of switching to winter tyres.
The use of winter tyres is mandatory during the winter months in many countries and regions throughout Europe, but there is no legal requirement to fit them in the UK.
New research has revealed 61 per cent of the UK drivers who took part in the survey confirmed that they had no plans to switch to winter tyres this year.
For 44 per cent of respondents, the absence of legal obligation was enough to convince them to pass up the added safety and protection winter tyres offer, while the impact on running costs of buying and maintaining an additional set of tyres was the spanner in the works for 40 per cent of respondents.
Additionally, the potential difficulties involved in storing the wheels and/or tyres out-of-season was the main impediment for 22 per cent of participants.
A popular misconception that has also traditionally inhibited the uptake of cold weather tyres in the UK is that our weather is very rarely 'wintry' enough to bring their benefits to the fore.
In reality, the performance of 'conventional' tyres can be noticeably impaired even at temperatures that are regularly recorded during a UK winter.
The relatively hard rubber compound of tyres softens to enhance grip as their temperature increases during usage. But at temperatures below 7°C, the tyres cannot absorb sufficient heat and grip is diminished, which also impacts braking effectiveness.
Thanks to their special rubber compound, winter tyres offer maximum grip during wet, icy and snowy road conditions - greatly improving stopping distances, compared with conventional tyres, and maximising driving safety.
The price of winter tyres varies, dependent on various factors, such as model, wheel-size, mileage and driving style. Plus, in the long-term, customers' ‘conventional' tyres will last longer as a result.
"The safety benefits of winter wheels and tyres are considerable from temperatures below 7Â°C - regularly seen in the UK as the winter months roll in," says James Allitt, a member of the leadership team at Audi UK.
"Our research highlights misconceptions among UK drivers about their merits, and also understandable concerns about the cost and inconvenience of ownership, and I hope we've gone some way towards addressing these misconceptions. Fundamentally, though, I firmly believe that any driver able to make the switch to winter tyres won't ever regret doing so when they feel the difference they can make."
The annual road safety week campaign, led by road safety charity Brake, brings together thousands of schools, organisations and communities to share important road safety messages.
According to Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of Brake: "It's really important that drivers make sure their vehicle isprepared for winter weather. At this time of year, there are often additional road hazards due to debris, ice and rain, increasing risk.
"Every death and injury on roads is a tragedy, and Brake cares for the families bereaved and injured through the National Road Victim Service. Road Safety Week is an opportunity for us all to think about the victims and start putting safety first.
"By making sure our vehicles are winter-tyre ready, for example, we are doing something positive that protectsour families and those around us and stops these horrifying and preventablecrashes."