GREENVILLE, S.C. — Three out of five U.S. drivers who live in Snow Belt states have lost control of their vehicles while driving in winter weather, according to a recent survey, but only two out of five use winter tires.
The survey, commissioned by Michelin North America Inc., represents responses from a "nationally representative" sample of 1,000 adults living in Snow Belt states.
The majority of Americans do not use winter tires, the survey shows, believing instead that all-season tires and four-wheel/all-wheel drive will suffice.
Seven out of 10 drivers surveyed said they believe all-season tires work just as well as winter tires in cold weather — as long as there's no snow on the ground — while more than half (53 percent) said they feel winter tires are not necessary on four-wheel- or all-wheel-drive vehicles.
Two-thirds of drivers balk at buying winter tires because they already have all-season tires, while 15 percent don't want to invest in a second set. One in 10 admitted they were not aware they should consider winter tires.
Another finding of interest — three quarters of respondents reported feeling nervous on winter roads, with 64 percent saying they avoid winter driving altogether if the forecast predicts snow.
"Tires are one of the least-discussed safety devices on your vehicle, so many consumers aren't aware of just how much they contribute to keeping you safe on the road," said Ron Margadonna, Michelin winter tire expert.
Tire manufacturers note that the dry-pavement traction characteristics of even the best all-season tires fades measurably as the temperature falls below 45 degrees F (7 degrees C), whereas properly designated winter tires perform better as the temperature falls.
Interesting to note in the responses: Of the things drivers listed as concerning them about driving in winter conditions, "other drivers" was the No. 1 response, followed by losing traction, losing control and getting stuck.
It's also worth noting that the rate of claimed winter tire usage — 38 percent — is considerably higher than the single-digit market share that the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) data show.
Last year winter tires represented just 2.1 percent of U.S. replacement market shipments, or approximately 4.4 million units, according to the USTMA's 2018 market statistics report. This was down from 6.9 million units in 2016, which represented 3.4 percent of aftermarket shipments.
The top year for winter tires in the past decade was 2011, the industry data show, at 9.5 million units and 4.9 percent of replacement market shipments.
If these winter tire shipments are measured against aftermarket shipments in Snow Belt states only, the percentage obviously rises but nowhere close to the usage claimed in the Michelin study.
Intriguingly, the number of winter tire shipments in the U.S. is roughly equal to the number in Canada, but the share north of the border is closer to 35 percent.
Michelin's findings echo those of a survey conducted last fall by Allstate Insurance Co., which showed that more than a third of drivers admit wet winter driving conditions stress them out.
The Allstate survey found that only 26 percent of American drivers feel confident in their winter driving abilities, while 92 percent said they take active steps to better prepare themselves for slick roads, including increasing following distance behind another vehicle (78 percent) and checking the weather before heading out (70 percent).