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The case for winter tires: Safety first

December 17th, 2022  |  Auto

Let’s be real. The deep freeze is just around the corner.

That means it’s time to put winter tires on your vehicle. Why?

Once the temperature drops below 7C, your all-season tires don’t work as well.

According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) safety is a key factor. Winter tires provide enhanced traction, cornering and stopping power in our cold Canadian winters. Unless you live in Quebec, where winter tires are mandatory, there are lots of good reasons to choose them.

But there’s another benefit – most insurers offer a discount for using them. That being said, many insurers have a date by which they need to be installed. Aviva, for example, sets that deadline on December 1. Be sure to check with your carrier about their date to take advantage of the discount.

Many insurers will ask if you install them at the time you’re taking out a policy. If not, make sure they know. Your declaration is enough. Just remember if you get in an accident and the winter tires aren’t there you could have a problem. Keep a copy of the receipt and it’s best to call your insurer when the tires are put on.

Canadians favouring winter tires

According to a national survey by TRAC in 2021, more Canadians are getting the message about the benefits of winter tires. Only 35 per cent of Canadian drivers used winter tires in 1998. That figure had more than doubled by 2021.

The survey further revealed that 79 per cent of drivers who use them say their winter tires have saved them from being involved in a potentially hazardous driving situation. In Quebec, 82 per cent of drivers believe the tires saved them from being involved in a collision.

These findings dovetail with a report by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation which cited a range of studies that show they provide superior traction, braking and cornering in all cold-weather conditions – whether the road is dry, wet, icy or snow-covered. They also play a role in increasing road safety and protecting drivers and pedestrians. Winter tires also help:

  • Prevent collision, injuries and fatalities
  • Reduce health and hospital emergency costs
  • Reduce the number of police/ambulance emergency responses in winter
  • Lower the frequency and size of insurance payouts
  • Reduce traffic congestion

Look for the Alpine Symbol

If you don’t have winter tires and are thinking of getting them. Make sure the tire features the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol – also referred to as the Alpine Symbol – on its sidewall. When you see this, it means the tire meets industry snow traction performance requirements.

If your tire is labelled Mud + Snow, or M+S, it’s intended to provide better traction in mud and light snow than a summer tire. In order to get the designation, it has to meet tread design standards, but its compound doesn’t have to be winter-specific. Make sure to shop around and consult a professional when choosing your tires.

TRAC found over 50 per cent of drivers not currently using winter tires believe that all-season tires offer sufficient traction and stopping power in winter road conditions. But TRAC notes they do not meet the necessary requirements.

And according to a study by TIRF, stopping distances for vehicles with winter tires are as much as 30 per cent shorter than for vehicles with all-season tires. Winter tires also deliver better traction on an ice or snow-covered road surface at -30C versus all-season tires at 4C.

Bottom line? No matter how many safety gizmos your vehicle has, your tires are the only thing touching the road this winter. Make sure they’ve got the best grip possible.

RELATED READING:9 Tips for winterizing your vehicle

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