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Winter tire use gaining traction: Study

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on October 16th, 2023

Despite steep increases in the cost of living 82 per cent of Canadians think investing in winter tires is important.

That was the finding of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study.

The survey, conducted by Leger in October 2022, found that outside Quebec, where winter tires are mandatory, winter tire usage stood at 63 per cent.

Over the past five years the number of motorists using them has increased. A similar TRAC study in 2017 found that 60 per cent of drivers outside of Quebec were using winter tires. In 1998, only 35 per cent of Canadian drivers did.

The study also showed 76 per cent of winter tire owners believe they have saved them from being involved in a potentially hazardous driving situation such as loss of control or collision. Another 76 per cent said they use winter tires in order to protect their family with the safety advantages.

Twenty-one per cent cited lower auto insurance premiums offered by their insurance provider as motivation to buy winter tires, and 13 per cent chose them based on advice from family, friends, or a tire retailer.

What are the safety advantages?

The superior grip of today’s winter tires is the result of more flexible rubber compounds that provide excellent traction even at extremely cold temperatures. This, coupled with sophisticated tread designs, allows for greater control and braking capability on cold, dry, snow-covered, icy or slushy roads.

Shorter stopping distances in emergency situations represent the primary safety benefit. A study from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF; www.tirf.ca) revealed:

  • At temperatures just below freezing, stopping distances for vehicles with winter tires are as much as 30 per cent shorter than for vehicles with all-season tires,
  • Winter tires deliver better traction on an ice or snow-covered road surface at -30°C versus all-season tires at 4C.

Temperature is everything when it comes to winter tires. At 7C or lower, winter tires outperform all-season and conventional summer tires which start to harden and lose traction. Monitoring tire pressure in winter months is particularly critical since tires can lose one (1) psi for every 5C drop in temperature. During the cold-weather months, TRAC advises measuring tire pressure at least once a month using a reliable tire gauge.


What are the different types of tires?

Winter tires feature the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol – also referred to as the Alpine Symbol – on the sidewall. When you see this, it means the tire meets industry snow traction performance requirements. Winter tires have big blocky treads that move water and slush more efficiently. The softer rubber maintains flexibility in cold temperatures.

All-weather tires are a hybrid. They can cover you in mild conditions (summer, spring and fall) as well as some non-extreme winter conditions. Like winter tires, they are recognized by Transport Canada as safe to use in most snowy conditions. On the tire you will see the Alpine Symbol. They generally don’t last as along as all-season and winter tires.

All-season tires offer optimal performance in spring, summer and fall. The treads are often smooth and straight so they repel water in the rain and grip the road better in hot conditions.

Mud and snow tiresare all-season tires approved for muddy and snowy conditions. The M+S designation can be found on the tire. They are approved for use in B.C. as long as the tire has a tread depth of 3.5mm. They do not meet the mandatory winter tire requirements in Quebec.

When should winter tires be installed?

The best time is before the temperature drops below 7C or before the first snowfall. Many motorists install them in October to avoid the rush on service departments once it starts to snow.

Transport Canada and tire experts recommend installing matching sets of four. Mixing and matching tires could be dangerous and result in a loss of control of the vehicle.

What are the insurance benefits?

Most insurers offer a discount for using winter tires. That being said, many 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.

At the time you’re taking your policy out, many insurers will ask if you install winter tires. 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.

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