The AA’s director of policy has poured cold water on a Westmeath county councillor’s suggestion that drivers should use winter or all-weather tyres.
Cllr Joe Flanagan told December’s budget meeting that drivers should take more responsibility for their own driving in bad weather, and using winter or all-weather tyres would cut down on gritting.
Cllr Flanagan, who works for a tyre company, said many people fit costly stereos and sat nav devices to their cars. “These particular gadgets cost a lot of money whereas the cost of upgrading your tyres might be a lot less and could increase your safety by about 100 per cent,” he said.
However, the AA’s Conor Faughnan is not an enthusiast of winter tyres here, as they are “expensive and disruptive and only of any use very rarely”.
“In a normal Irish winter those tyres will frequently be less effective than normal tyres,” he said. “It’s only in very severe and prolonged cold weather that winter tyres have a significant advantage.”
“However, when temperatures are higher than +5C or so, winter tyres are actually less effective than normal tyres,” he said.
He said many countries have regulations about winter tyres but these are countries that experience prolonged cold winters with very low ambient temperatures for many weeks. “2010 aside, Ireland is not like that,” he said.
He was also not in favour of Cllr Flanagan’s proposal that motorists be incentivized to have winter tyres, saying that a set costs about €700.
“For them to be supplied for all two million private cars in Ireland (even assuming that the industry could do so ), would cost €1.4bn, not including storage.”
“Given that on average we only have a need for them for about one month every 35 years, this is not the best use of resources,” he added.
He said some drivers might favour the middle ground of all-weather tyres, but said he still wouldn’t support making their use compulsory.
He was also against an incentive scheme for any tyres.
‘”Government incentive’ is often a misused term and people seem to believe it involves something for free. In fact it is just another way of saying that all taxpayers should chip in and pay for my tyres.”
“Likewise insurance companies are not a resource to pay for things. All their money comes from motorists,” he concluded, saying they would be forced to pass on the cost to drivers.
“It is actually far more important for all of us to make sure that our ordinary tyres are well kept. They should be properly inflated, have a minimum of 3mm tread depth and should be checked regularly for damage and wear.”
“If we all did that, it would make a much more significant impact than if everyone invested in winter tyres.”