It's the time of year for snow tires, but many people never change out their tires or opt for all-season tires instead.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and MasterDrive wanted to see which tires performed best on ice. They put three identical compact cars, each with differing tires, low-tread tires, mud and snow designated tires and snow tires on the ice at the Foothills Ice Arena.
Side by side, the vehicles first accelerated across the ice to demonstrate the improved control and traction provided by snow tires. In a second demonstration, the vehicles all accelerated and then hit the brakes to demonstrate each set of tires’ stopping distance.
The vehicle with snow tires was the first to come to a complete stop.
According to CDOT, the rubber compounds in snow tires stay soft and flexible in cold weather, giving them better grip and braking capability. The tread compound in other tires, even all-season ones, actually harden in low temperatures and give tires less grip on the road.
If conditions require, CDOT may implement the Passenger Vehicle Traction and Chain Laws, making inadequate tires illegal on Colorado roads. The Traction Law requires every motorist to have snow tires, mud/snow tires or a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle. All tires must have a minimum of one-eighth inch tread.
In extreme conditions and as a last resort before the highway is closed, CDOT could implement the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law. That requires every vehicle to have chains or an alternative traction device, like an AutoSock. Fines ranging from $130-$650.
CDOT recommends drivers assess their own tire tread by performing a Quarter Test. For a Quarter Test, insert a quarter into the tire tread upside down, with Washington’s head going in first. If the top of the president’s head is covered by the tread, your tires meet the minimum requirements of the Traction Law with one-eight inch tread. If his head is visible, you should consider investing in new tires.