By Clair Oppreicht, NMA Wisconsin Member
Why give up driving freedom just because it is winter?
Every winter, we in the snow belt must gear up for winter driving. Many articles and news tips repeat the same old information on how to survive and how to try to avoid bad-road mishaps. The media hardly ever mention that there is something we can do to make that kind of advice mostly irrelevant.
How would you like to drive faster, in any kind of weather or road condition, come and go as you please, and rarely slide or get stuck?
Unless you have already equipped your vehicle with the new breed of winter tires, you probably have no idea just how good they are at handling all-winter road conditions. If you are a member of the baby boomer (or earlier) generation and grew up in a northern climate, you will remember snow tires. Winter tires have totally different capabilities. I won’t go into the technical details; all of that is available online or in auto magazines.
Check out TireRack.com for reports and testing videos; they are the top tire testers in the U.S. Here is an example. I can’t emphasize enough how much fun these tires make winter driving. Mobility is freedom. Don’t let winter reduce either for you.
I’ve driven about 150,000 miles in Wisconsin winters with these tires since 1995. Sixty winter tires have been installed on cars of friends and families over the years, and none of those vehicles have been in an accident or ended up in a ditch. We love winter driving and seek out bad roads and blizzards for fun (as long as visibility is good).
I now drive a 4×4 Nissan Titan with winter tires. Last winter, I passed a deputy’s unmarked SUV on a snow-packed county highway after a blizzard. He was only doing 20 mph with his balding all-season tires. He was not amused. It took him a mile to catch up to me. He gave me two tickets with potential penalties totaling $420 and seven points. I fought the charges with the NMA’s help. The state had to drop all the charges when I proved that I hadn’t violated any statutes. After my trial, the district attorney even asked how she could get winter tires for her car.
Many people ask about the cost of adding winter tires. I figured out that the tires ultimately save money. We get better gas mileage using them during winter than we do using all-season tires in the summer. Not only can you save wear on all-season tires by storing them for seven months, but the higher mileage obtained by using winter tires is a bonus. All-season tires end up spinning in winter, increasing their wear. The opposite is true of winter tires. You do have to invest in a set of wheels for the winter tires, but that actually simplifies the change of tires twice a year. Most people can do that for themselves.
Another serious potential savings is staying away from towing charges and the body shop. In Wisconsin, the police are likely to hand out a $270 four point (“too fast for conditions”) ticket to anyone they find stuck in a ditch or off the road. Two of those episodes, along with an increase to insurance premiums, will likely cost about $900, even without considering the expense of towing. That is close to the cost of the separate set of wheels and winter tires.
I say, “Let the cops and robbers ticket someone else.” Besides, what is the price of safety and freedom on the roads?