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Winter tyres in warm country

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
A car is pushed up a hill in Colorado Springs, after slushy roads turned to ice. A car is pushed up a hill in Colorado Springs, Colo., after slushy roads turned to ice during the afternoon on Monday, February. 16, 2015. Snowstorms moved in and out numerous times during the day in the Pikes Peak region. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Jerilee Bennett) MAGS OUT

Many unsuspecting consumers purchase used vehicles fitted with winter (or snow) tyres not knowing of the grave dangers that they may face.

Marlene Lambert is one of them. She bought a used motor car from a dealer, fitted with winter tyres two years ago and today is giving thanks to be alive. She tells a frightening story of trying to negotiate a corner and the vehicle skidded violently, crashing and being written off.

While making it clear that she is not an expert on the various types of tyres, Lambert told Automotives that her experiences while driving with winter tyres were scary and treacherous.

"I was rather surprised when my car started picking up skids along the roadway as I accelerated after moving off from a stop, especially at a stop light or when I tried to negotiate a corner. There are other occasions when I had stopped to make a turn and I have had to hold the steering very firmly as it was either wobbling or skidding," Lambert said.

Things got worse.

"My battle with the car ended in a disaster as three months after, my car was in a major accident. While going around a corner, the car skidded again and headed over a gully, Thank God no lives were lost; however, the car was completely written off," she added.


Not fit for J'can roads

Director of the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) Ludlow Powell, said under no circumstance should vehicles fitted with winter tyres be certified fit for the Jamaican roads. "Winter tyres are dangerous (in tropical countries) and they are not supposed to be allowed on our roads," Powell stressed.

Powell argued that winter or snow tyres are not even used in some states in the US when the temperature is hot. "You have all-weather tyres, which are completely different from those that are used specifically for the winter period and are taken off as soon as winter is over," he said.

One motorist told Automotives that he was told by an examiner that the tyres posed no safety risk when he took his vehicle to get the fitness test done. However, Powell said the examiners at the depots should not give the green light to vehicles fitted with winter tyres.

"So if there are examiners who are not aware, then we need to correct that immediately," he said.

An employee at a popular tyre retailer is very familiar with the snow tyres. "A lot of people who have winter tyres on their vehicles, when it rains they come to us and change them out, because dem a sey when dem step on the brake, the car a slide," said Dennis Hutchinson, an employee at Tyre World on Hagley Park Road, St Andrew.

He said the used-car dealers should not have sold the vehicles with snow tyres but should have replaced them with those suitable for the Jamaican environment.

Checks by Automotives at some used-car dealers on Hagley Park and Constant Spring roads in St Andrew showed a number of cars and vans on display fitted with winter tyres.

Powell said this is something that needs to be tidied up. "I need to have a sit-down with the Trade Board and also TAJ (Tax Administration Jamaica), with the Ministry (of Transport and Works), for us to look at the policy with dealers because at what point do these people get their fitness, and that's the issue," he said.

"Most members of the public, especially females, would not know what a winter tyre looks like, so they would buy the vehicle not even knowing that those tyres are not permissible. It is a matter of ignorance," Powell reasoned.

Director of the Road Safety Unit Kenute Hare confirmed that the ITA does not certify vehicles with winter tyres fit for the Jamaican road network.

"We are fully aware of the negativity and the implications. Those tyres are not designed for our environment because we have heat and they will melt," Hare said.