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Winter tyres - a popular choice for winter driving safety

Although Britain doesn't have the types of snowy winters you'll find in North America or the Alps, the past few winters have reminded us that mother nature does like to coat our landscape with white powder (and slush) from time to time. As a result, many drivers have chosen to switch to separate tyres for winter and summer driving.

Motoring experts now advise drivers to consider switching to winter tyres, and winter tyre sales have increased steadily over the past few years, with a 200% jump in the winter 2011/2012 compared to 2010/2011.

Don't be fooled into thinking that winter tyres are studded - they're not! They are softer than summer tyres, have deeper grooves than summer tyres and the surface of the tread is covered with little jagged slits called snipes (see photo above). Each of these helps the tyres grip cold, damp roads below about 7C.

The disadvantage to winter tyres is that above 7C, they're not as good as summer tyres on dry pavement, particularly with stopping distance. If you leave winter tyres on year-round, you'll notice a difference in the handling - especially on bends - and even the sound of the tyres on the pavement due to their softness. It is always better to switch to a summer tyre and store your winter tyres between roughly March and October.

In much of Europe, winter tyres are a requirement either by law or practice. For example, in Switzerland if you drive without winter tyres and are involved in an accident, your insurance company will most likely not pay and the police will attribute the fault for the accident to you almost automatically. In Germany, if you don't have winter tyres and are involved in an accident or disrupt traffic when there's snow or ice on the roads, your fine doubles. If you plan on taking your UK car to Europe between Easter and October, be sure to find out what the regulations are for tyres, as you may be required to have winter tyres in order to drive on the roads.

If you decide to fit winter tyres on your car, you may need to inform your insurance company, and in some cases it may affect your insurance coverage. When in doubt, contact your car insurance company to make sure.

One concern that many people have when deciding on buying winter tyres is where to store them when not in use. There are many options for this, and your local removals company can store your winter tyres for you.

No matter what tyres you have on your car, in snowy and icy weather, it is always best to drive slowly and leave plenty of room between you and the car ahead. Clean all of the snow off your car - especially on the roof and bonnet, which can fly up and land on your windscreen or the windscreen of the car behind you causing a hazard; and wipe the snow from your headlights and brake lights before setting off.

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