28 October 2014

Smart Heuristics: When to Change your Summer Tyres with the Winter Ones

A few years ago, in my country of birth – Romania – a new regulation was introduced regarding the use of winter-tyres. The initial regulation stated that it was mandatory to use winter-tyres starting with November 1st each year.

From a purely meteorological point of view, the November 1st date was not accurate. Non-Romanians should know that the weather is quite tricky in the sense that in some years the first snow comes as early as October, while, in other years the weather can be fine till January. In addition, Romania is a rather large country and with a diverse landscape – mountains, fields, hills and seaside. Naturally the weather is very different across the country.

So, our legislators wanted to make a more efficient and accurate regulation. Thus, the new regulation says that winter-tyres are mandatory whenever there is snow or ice on the roads.

From a rational point of view, the new regulation is very accurate and makes perfect sense. If there is snow / ice, use winter-tyres regardless of the season, area etc.

However, a lot of people remember that they have to change the summer-tyres with the winter ones shortly before November 1st.  The police, however, applies the law and not seldom people get fined for not having winter-tyres whenever it snows before November 1st.

Although the existing regulation – use winter-tyres whenever there is snow or ice – is correct, it has the downside of being difficult to understand and, most importantly, it is difficult to conform to. The old regulation with a clear deadline (November 1st) was much more “user friendly”. People simply could plan for the behaviour (going to the car-shop).

My proposition is to create a smart heuristic (at least in my view) by associating the change from summer tyres to winter ones with the change of time – from summer time to winter time.

In most of Europe, we change the time on the last weekend of October. On that magical 25 hours Sunday we can sleep more. The regulators (legislators) can use this event as a reference date for changing the summer with the winter tyres.

In the public’s mind, this event is already associated with change – we have to change the time on our clocks and watches – and it is associated with the change from summer to winter.

Change the time – change the tyres.

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