A survey of 3,000 British drivers has revealed that less than 5 percent plan on buying winter tyres this year - even though weather reports suggest that the UK is due to be brought to a standstill again because of the snow.
In light of the last two winters, during which heavy snowfall allowed excessive use of the word CHAOS (capitals necessary) across the entire media spectrum, the survey results show a startling apathy towards winter tyres.
The reasons respondents said they wouldn't be changing rubber this winter included cost (41%), a belief that the snow won't be too bad this year (28%), and plain old ignorance – almost one in five didn't know what winter tyres are.
Most fascinating, though, is the bravado of some drivers: of the eight percent that said they don't drive any differently in the snow (of course they don't), well over half reckon that's because their driving skills are so sublime.
The dismissal of winter tyres within the survey is so surprising because of the justifiable fuss made about them over the last two years, and the subsequent shortage – many drivers were simply unable to get hold of them last year, and some resorted to buying new wheels just so they could get the right rubber.
Winter tyres are different to conventional ones in three key ways: the rubber compound is different, designed to remain flexible at lower temperatures; the tread pattern is set so as to divert water and snow away from the contact patch between rubber and road; and small claws (sipes) are added to dig into the snow for extra grip.
The difference they make is barely believable at times, particularly under braking. Here's a demonstration if you don't believe us.
Stats from the Association of British Insurers show that between December 2009 and January 2010 there were 268,000 claims made as a direct result of the sudden snowfall, with payouts totaling £395m.
This year will see most UK suppliers stocking up on more winter rubber than ever to meet increased demand (despite the results of this survey). However, there still won't be enough, according to an expert we spoke to.
Speaking to Autoblog, Laura Hardy of Continental Tyres said that it would be increasing its supply to UK retailers markedly this year, but still doesn't expect there to be enough to satiate the market; this year will also see the first Uniroyal (a Continental-owned brand) winter tyres come to the UK.
According to Laura, drivers should be looking for winter tyres during September, to ensure getting a suitable set in the right size.
Obviously it's too late for that now, but there's still time to avoid buying winter tyres like we buy Christmas presents - in a late panic, usually resulting in limited/overpriced/zero options.
Having said that, being snowed in is always fun, right?