Barrie gets a lot of snow. In fact, by the first weekend in December I had already had to fire up my snowblower and my ski pass (both of which will see a lot of use this winter). As a result, I was considerably surprised to learn the other day that not all of our staff have snow tires on their cars. If my staff (who really should know better) do not appreciate the importance of snow tires, there are likely other readers of this blog driving around on “all season” tires and putting themselves and their families at unnecessary risk.
What are Snow Tires?
Tires are made of rubber, which becomes harder in colder temperatures. This in turn results in a loss of grip, as the tires are less able to stick to the road. Snow or winter tires are specially formulated to function in colder conditions. Generally, they will also have larger treads.
By contrast, “all season” tires are designed to work best above 7 degrees. It gets colder than this in Ontario!
Are you required to use Snow Tires?
There is currently no legal requirement to use snow tires in Ontario. As a result, there does not appear to be any cases in Ontario holding a driver responsible for a motor vehicle accident merely because they did not have snow tires. Note that different rules may apply in different province.
Should you use Snow Tires?
Even though you are not legally required to use snow tires, if you drive a car in Ontario, you should. Studies have consistently shown that winter tires provide more traction and are therefore safer. Moreover, jurisdictions which have implemented mandatory winter tire use have seen decreases in winter collisions.
Although Ontario does not require winter tires, it does recommend them. Moreover, insurers in Ontario are required to offer a discount on insurance premiums for vehicles using snow tires.
There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of snow tires. Perhaps my favourite is this video by Mat Watson (my favourite YouTuber) demonstrating the difference in effectiveness between snow tires and all wheel drive.
What About the Cost?
Even with the 5% discount on insurance premiums, snow tires are undoubtedly an additional cost. But you should think of this not as an additional expense, but as an investment in your safety. If a few hundred dollars avoids a collision – and hiring someone like me! – that is money well spent.
As I write this, the temperature in Barrie is -2 degrees. If you don’t have your snow tires on yet, go get them. Enjoy the winter!
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