I'm one of those "what's all the fuss?" types because there's always been a Land Rover around. I've ticked the 'no' box to fitting winter tyres because I simply choose a more fitting vehicle. So perhaps I should have ticked the 'yes' box for that vehicle...?
For instance on Saturday morning, I took one look at the snow and clear skies, and walked past the car and up to the shed and wound up a Land Rover. Chose the one permanently fitted with M&S tyres ("These are not ordinary tyres, these are..." erm, no, M&S as in mud & snow) and made my way at a steady pace, with plenty plenty distance between me and the vehicle in front, slowing down on narrow roads to pass oncoming traffic as I expected problems with slippery verges as we moved over, etc. Had to cadence brake a couple of times but nothing brown trousers - I'd tested the braking on an empty stretch to calibrate the look of the road with traction as it's 9-10 months since driving in icy conditions - and managed to get to Waitrose before the free mince pies had all vanished As is so often the way, not having the Land Rover plastered in chequer plate made absolutely no difference to whether it got through or not
I guess I had suitable tyres, 4wd, and a suitable attitude. Of course it would only have required one muppet in the wrong place and I would have been able to make no progress once the road had been blocked. There were many of the "Oh my god we're all going to die" crowd out doing 20mph on open, salted, dry roads and I wonder if they are better suited to simply staying at home. Takes a lot of willpower not to want to zoom past them at the first opportunity, easy to become over-confident for the conditions out of frustration. Arguably they would be more confident drivers with better tyres and more experience of slippery conditions but would they in practice drive any differently due to the infrequency of such weather here?
Once the cold spell has passed - tomorrow or Wednesday by current forecast - I'll be back in the car because it's more comfortable, the heater works better, etc. But in a month's time, or whenever the next cold spell hits, back into the cold, clattery box on wheels I will go. Also, how does the issue of winter tyres work with company cars in those countries where their use is mandatory? Most trucks and vans will live at a depot where such things can be attended to, but company cars must be a right pain. Is it simply cheaper for companies to pay for changes of tyres based upon season rather than wear? i.e. do all staff get the "It's October, get your tyres changed" email, and then another in April?
One of the problems in encouraging winter tyre use in the UK will be the cost. People change cars so frequently that it does not make sense to buy a set of spare wheels and tyres - even less popular sizes/styles as Mike points out - if they're only going to see a couple or three winters with the vehicle. Have a look next time you walk through a car park at the mis-matched and generally cheapo tyres on anything more than 2 years old and you'll see that people loathe spending good money on one set, never mind a spare set that probably won't fit the next car when it comes. It doesn't seem to have dawned on them that the only thing that stops them falling off the road is the £15.99 no-name tyres they were so pleased to find.
I suspect many of us here choose tyres based upon performance (as in test data, dry/wet use, stopping distances, etc.) even for our mundane vehicles, possibly steered by aesthetics, but generally with no real consideration of cost, in the same way that we choose fuel (and indeed petrol stations) when we fill up. We are not representative motorists!