Motor Ombudsman survey highlights gaps in winter tyre knowledge

The survey suggests that 87% of British car owners are unfamiliar with European winter tyre laws

At a time when many motorists look to make plans to drive abroad for the Christmas break and the start of the ski season, a YouGov survey commissioned by The Motor Ombudsman suggests that 87 per cent of car owners in Great Britain are unaware which countries across the Channel have laws pertaining to winter tyre use.

The YouGov survey of over 1,400 car owners in Great Britain was conducted as part of the automotive dispute resolution body’s newly-launched campaign to increase consumer knowledge of winter tyres and to highlight the importance of having these products fitted by a company accredited to its Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair.

Laws regarding winter tyre use differ from country to country in Europe, and the survey uncovered that only 13 per cent of respondents knew whether they’d need to change their tyres to be legally compliant at their European destination of choice. Knowledge of the rules was highest amongst the 18 to 24 age group, with 29 per cent correctly responding.

Furthermore, of the individuals surveyed, only 28 per cent knew that a winter tyre is most effective in temperatures below seven degrees Celsius. Those in the 35 to 44 age bracket (33 per cent) were the most well-versed when it comes to being familiar with this key benefit, with the least knowledgeable being motorists in their late teens and early 20s.

Encouragingly, around six in ten car owners are au fait about the advantages of winter tyres when the mercury dips, whilst a similar proportion (61 per cent) are able to identify how they vary from summer equivalents. From those who were able to state how the tyres differ, 89 per cent knew that the grip level is improved in colder weather. More than half of survey participants explained that they deliver shorter braking distances in colder temperatures (55 per cent), with just over one in three individuals (34 per cent) having observed that a winter tyre features different sidewall symbols (a three-peak mountain insignia and the letters “M+S”) to that of the summer tyre commonly seen on UK roads.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Bill Fennell, chief ombudsman and managing director of The Motor Ombudsman, said: “The research paints an interesting and contrasting picture of the nation’s familiarity of winter tyres. On the one hand, they are knowledgeable about the merits that winter tyres offer in more challenging conditions, but on the other, there is significantly less understanding of what the laws are when heading abroad. This therefore reinforces the need for car owners, before they set off on their journey this winter, to spend time doing research and to make sure that they are prepared to avoid falling foul of the law, which ultimately compromises safety. In addition, it’s just as important that motorists visit a reputable garage, such as one accredited to The Motor Ombudsman, that is qualified to fit them and to provide the right guidance to meet the needs of customers.”

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