Following the coldest March in 40 years, chilling statistics released by ATS Euromaster in its annual Winter Weather Study showed that temperatures dropped below seven degrees Celsius during prime commuting hours on 173 separate days between 1 October 2012 and 31 March 2013.

The statistics cover temperatures in 10 major UK cities from 7am till 9am and 4pm till 6pm. The detailed weather analysis also revealed that parts of the UK were covered under a blanket of snow for 44 separate days during the six month period.

The figures, commissioned annually by tire experts ATS Euromaster from the Met Office, highlight the importance of fitting cold weather tires, as the specialist tires offer greatly improved grip, handling, cornering and reduced braking distances when the temperature drops below seven degrees Celsius, which it did for 95 percent of the six months measured.

Peter Fairlie, group sales director at ATS Euromaster, noted: “The UK faced one of the coldest winters in recent years and driving conditions have been treacherous for many motorists travelling on roads covered in ice and snow. In fact the UK only experienced nine days out of the whole six month period where cold weather tires wouldn’t have made driving safer in at least one of the 10 major cities we studied.”

Of the 10 cities analyzed, Newcastle upon Tyne recorded the highest number of days when commuter time temperatures dipped below seven degrees Celsius with 162, compared to the 129 reported in 2011/2012’s Winter Weather Study. Aberdeen had the second highest number with 159 days, 41 days more than last year, and London was the city with the fewest days, with 120, but still accounting for 66 per cent of the six month period.

Newcastle was also the city with the deepest level of snowfall, with 25cm being recorded on 26 January, while Aberdeen had 12 days of consecutive snow covering in January 2013.

The month with the highest average number of days recorded below seven degrees Celsius during prime commuting times was March 2013, with 30 days. December 2012 was the second highest with 27 days, while October was the lowest with 15 days, but still more than double the number 12 months earlier.

The change out of the seasonal tires has continued to grow amongst retail customers and fleets, according to ATS Euromaster. 

“It’s now the exception, rather than the norm, to find a supermarket home delivery or ‘blue light’ fleet not fitting cold weather tires to the majority of its vehicles,” Fairlie said. “These organizations have led the market in becoming early-adopters, closely followed by utilities fleets and other businesses and individuals which can’t afford for vehicles to be parked up during a harsh winter. A lot of customers were skeptical about changing tires at first, but the frequency with which we are having harsh winters reinforces the safety and mobility benefits, and explains why take-up is increasing every year.”

The direct benefits of cold weather tires start as soon as the temperature drops below seven degrees Celsius, when the performance of regular “summer” tires deteriorates. As a result of the cold, the rubber becomes harder and less “elastic.” This means that the tires suffer from reduced grip and braking ability, and offer a less comfortable ride, according to ATS Euromaster.