The road to safe winter driving increasingly relies on installing winter tires.
Canadian winters can be harsh and a challenge to drive in, and increasingly drivers are meeting the challenge with winter tires. According to a recent Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) survey, 66% of Canadians use winter tires today, compared to just 35% back in 1998.
Provincially, however, the TRAC survey found there are significant differences in winter tire usage amongst Canadians.
In Quebec, for example, having winter tires on passenger vehicles is required by law. The tires must be installed from December 15 to March 15 and if you are caught without them, the fines will run you a minimum of $200 to $300. As a result, the survey found 100% of Quebec drivers polled said they changed their tires seasonally. In contrast, just 48% of drivers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan make the tire change to match the season.
In Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, approximately six in 10 drivers say they use winter tires, while 83% change their tires seasonally in Atlantic Canada.
Why Bother with Winter Tires?
Winter tires offer better traction, braking and control when the temperature approaches freezing or when conditions are snowy or icy. Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation estimates that winter tires in good condition can shorten braking distances by as much as 25%, which can go a long way in preventing a collision.
In addition to the safety benefits, having winter tires could also help you lower your car insurance rate. Many auto insurers offer drivers a discount if their vehicle is equipped with winter wheels. And, if you live in Ontario, all insurers offer a winter tire discount. The discount varies, but it could save you up to five per cent off your premium.
It’s that time of year again. Are you and your car ready for winter?
Even with winter wheels, there are other precautions we should all take when it comes to winter driving.
1. Keep a winter safety kit in the car
At minimum, your car safety kit should include a snow brush, ice-scraper, flashlight, first-aid kit, blanket, jumper cables, a collapsible shovel, traction mats or sand, an extra jug of windshield wiper fluid, a candle, and a lighter or matches. It may seem like a lot to haul around but you can pack your kit into a plastic storage bin to keep your trunk organized.
2. Slow down
The speed limit is the fastest speed at which you can safely travel in optimal road conditions. When road conditions are not optimal, like when there is ice or snow, you should lower your speed.
3. Give yourself the space you need to safely stop
Keep a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. In winter, and especially in bad weather, you’ll want to double the two-second rule. This means, at least a four-second interval from the time the car in front of you passes a fixed object until you reach the same object.
4. Accelerate gently and brake sooner
Even with winter tires, it takes all vehicles longer to get moving and stop in winter conditions. Accelerate gently to maintain traction, take turns slowly, and start braking sooner.
5. Give snow plows the room they need
Keep a safe distance behind working snow plows, and never try to pass them. Snow plows are wider than most vehicles and have large blades that extend about a metre ahead and even slightly into the neighbouring lane. They may also kick up snow that will greatly reduce visibility. Attempting to pass a snow plow is extremely dangerous.
Put Your Car Insurance Premiums on Ice
Driving with winter tires may help in keeping your car insurance rates low, but there’s no better way to save than by comparing auto insurance quotes. Car insurance is like any other product or service: to get the best deal, you have to shop around. If you’re not comparing rates regularly (like at renewal, when you move or buy a new car), chances are you’re overpaying for your coverage.