Just as snow blankets much of Canada, parts of the country are in the grip of a shortage of snow tires after a new law in Québec made winter rubber mandatory.
To increase highway safety, Québec passed a law requiring all passenger cars to use snow tires from December 15 to March 15 each year. The law takes effect on Monday.
Québec is the first province to pass such a law, stipulating fines from $200 to $300 for offenders.
However, Québecers’ rush to buy snow tires, along with harsh conditions created by recent snowstorms in Eastern Ontario and other parts of Canada, have contributed to a shortfall of winter tires across the country.
Tire retailers and distributors from coast to coast including locations in St. John’s, Toronto, Calgary, and Prince George have all reported shortages. They say they are sold out of many sizes, have a backlog of orders and are having to turn away customers.
Transports Québec cites 2005 data showing that 38 per cent of winter accidents and an even higher proportion of incidents of loss of control involved at least one vehicle with all-season tires.
Considering that an estimated 90 per cent of passenger vehicles in 2005 already use winter tires, the remaining 10 per cent of vehicles with all-seasons are greatly overrepresented in these accidents, the transportation ministry said.
Despite Canada’s reputation for severe winters with treacherous driving conditions, only 57 per cent of Canadians use snow tires, according to a recent RBC/Insurance/Ipsos Reid consumer poll. Among the 43 per cent who don’t, 54 per cent are unwilling to spend the money on snow tires.
The poll found that 96 per cent of Québecers install snow tires for the winter, followed by 72 per cent of those living in Atlantic Canada. The proportions dwindle west of Quebec, with only 48 per cent of British Columbians, 43 per cent of Ontarians, 41 per cent of Albertans, and 31 per cent of Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents using snow tires.
According to CAA- Québec, “Winter tires don’t only provide the proper traction in snow and ice; they also ensure that your vehicle brakes efficiently, maintains stability when braking and doesn’t deviate from its trajectory when turning.”
Cold-weather tests on a subcompact car have shown that, at 50 kilometres an hour, winter tires reduce braking distance by 23 percent, or 11.5 metres, compared with all-season tires, said CAA- Québec in a statement. That’s slightly over two vehicle lengths.
“This can make all the difference in an emergency situation,” noted spokesperson Sophie Gagnon.
Winter is in full swing across Canada, with most of the country already blanketed by at least 10 centimetres of snow and the far western and eastern regions by 30 to 50 centimetres or more. Victoria and Vancouver received their first snowfall of the season on Saturday night.
The good news from the Weather Network is that it’s unlikely snowfall totals will come close to those that set records across Ontario, Québec, and New Brunswick last year.