Last week, a sudden squall that left a dusting during morning rush hour caused an apocalypse on I-89. The press coverage was the usual deal:
Vermont State Police say roughly 30 crashes happened on 89 between Waterbury and Colchester with cars sliding off the road and going into the median. Police blamed poor driving for the wrecks.
No mention of winter tires at all by the press or the police which is sad as this was a good opportunity for education.
The comments to the news article were the typical blame game that VT Trans didn’t do their job and were at fault for not having the roads perfectly clear after a squall (which is simply unrealistic).
There were a few voices of reason in the comments. One post in particular even referenced Nokian Hakkapeliittas:
Slow down and have a studded set of winter tires preferably Hakkies and you should be okay no matter the weather. Yes, it is expensive, but the reality is there is only so much the state can do under certain circumstances and even the studded Hakkies might not help if someone slides into you...Forget All Seasons, you're off the road in certain circumstances even on the Interstate…
It was the responses to these comments that were disheartening. Most centered around not being able to afford winter tires. One in particular was pretty harsh:
Hey, not everyone can afford winter tires. People like you make me sick. Has everything to do I with common sense and driving slow. Shame on you.
I can’t stand this excuse. If you intend to own a vehicle for more than 5 years, you CAN afford winter tires. Chance are, during the five years of ownership, you will need to replace your tires once. By buying winter tires, you are prolonging the life of your original equipment tires since they are not being used during the winter season. In a sense, you are buying the second set of tire early.
Of course, we could make it cost prohibitive to NOT have winter tires. Insurance companies could charge a higher deductible for people that have wrecks during winter if their car did not have winter tires.
We could go even a step further like they do in Germany:
If drivers are caught running a vehicle in winter weather conditions on summer tyres, they will receive a fine of €40. If a driver endangers other road users, the fine increases to €80 and the driver will also receive one point on their driving licence.
In addition, a driver who causes an accident as a result of failing to fit winter tyres will have problems with their insurance. Fully comprehensive insurers will argue that they are entitled to refuse part of the insurance payment as a result of the driver’s gross negligence. It is also conceivable that third-party insurers will also attempt to refuse part of the insurance payment.
This would help make not having winter tire “unaffordable”. Sadly, we Americans don’t like being told what to do so these things will likely never happen. Instead, those of us with winter tires will continue to need to dodge the ill equipped.