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Winter tires should be mandatory across Canada

MichaelTaube
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Michael Taube: Some drivers believe all-weather/all-season tires can handle harsh winter conditions. That’s not the case.

I planned to write about a different issue this week but had a sudden change in plans, thanks to the (ahem) ‘expertise’ of Toronto drivers.

Some of them, anyway.

After a massive snowstorm last week, the city was hit with another five to 10 cm of snow on Monday. Far less than what we faced seven days ago, but enough to demonstrate that people can’t remember how to drive in Toronto in difficult, snowy conditions.

The roads were very slick for several hours. Drivers went slowly. Quite a few cars moved in and out of lanes. Pileups and accidents occurred.

I went to pick up my son from school. In normal weather conditions, the drive takes 12 to 15 minutes. Sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more. It took me close to 55 minutes on Monday.

Why?

There are two routes I typically use to pick him up. On the first one, which includes a hill, several cars had slid into other vehicles or were stuck. Other vehicles, except city buses, began making U-turns to get away from this mess. I was one of them.

The second route, which includes a larger hill, eventually led me to my son’s school. It was a long, difficult slog – and bumper to bumper most of the way. It was almost enough to make a bale of turtles laugh out loud.

Many of the drivers I encountered who were stuck, or weaving in and out of traffic and getting into accidents, didn’t have ‘snows,’ or winter tires, on their vehicles.

Quelle surprise.

In March 2019, I made the same observation about Toronto drivers. And I’m going to make the same recommendation: All Canadian provinces need to mandate the use of winter tires on vehicles.

Some provinces have tire regulations:

  • Quebec drivers are mandated to put winter tires on their vehicles from Dec. 1 to Mar. 15, and face fines of $200 to $300 (plus costs) if they don’t.
  • Ontario’s insurance companies have provided a winter tire discount of two to five per cent to applicable drivers since 2016.
  • Manitoba Public Insurance has had a winter tire program for several years that provides “low-interest financing to eligible Manitobans at prime plus two per cent, on up to $2,000 per vehicle.”
  • New Brunswick’s school buses are mandated to use winter tires.
  • In B.C., winter tires became mandatory on most provincial highways as of Oct. 1, 2021.

Every other Canadian province and territory doesn’t mandate winter tires. Some allow the use of studded tires, including B.C., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island, for several months. That’s as far as they go.

It’s time to make this important shift. Mandated winter tires would help create more safety on our roads. It would enable drivers to have more control over their vehicles, as I learned first-hand when I started using them on my car in 2018. It would prevent the litany of stalled vehicles and accidents, too.

It would also allow parents to pick up their children on wintery days closer to the time of school departure!

It goes without saying that I would prefer the state wasn’t involved in this decision-making process. I strongly believe in small government and more individual rights, liberties and freedoms. If our governments are afforded the opportunity to implement a policy that all licensed drivers must follow during the winter months, it will set a terrible precedent for this matter – and other matters.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we have another option.

Financial incentives through provincial insurance discounts have only had a modest effect. Many drivers don’t want to incur the extra expense to purchase and store winter tires.

Good judgment on Canada’s streets and highways has gone the way of the dinosaur. New immigrants from non-winter countries are at a huge disadvantage, through no fault of their own. Milder temperatures during the winter months in recent years have caused Canadians from all walks of life to forget how to drive in these blustery, snowy conditions.

There are also some drivers who firmly believe that all-weather/all-season tires are good enough to handle the harsh winter conditions. However, as many studies have shown, that’s not the case, but there’s no convincing them.

The only way to create a safe environment on Canadian roads is to establish a nationwide policy for mandatory winter tires. It was the only feasible solution when I first tackled this issue, and that’s still the case.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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