Vancouver’s Winter Tire Wars

The good old winter tire debate has been a sore spot in Vancouver for many years. Last year, with our exceptionally bad winter, the conversation reignited over whether or not winter tires should be mandatory on Vancouver’s streets. Those who bore witness to the chaos on the streets during that week know it was not a pretty sight. Many people were underprepared for the driving conditions, making the roads extremely unsafe. Cars and busses were sliding down the streets, causing many accidents and clogging the roads for emergency response vehicles to get through.

Vancouver traditionally offers mild winters, with most winter tire adherents being expats from “the rest of Canada.”A winter tire requirement has become fodder for city politicians and radio talk show hosts on a seasonal basis.

Winter tires and the rest of BC:

Many of our neighbouring cities make it mandatory to have winter tires to drive on certain roads and highways in B.C. The law in BC requires cars and light trucks to use winter tires on many routes from October 1 to March 31. Along with signs posted, they often have police checking tires on high-traffic days to ensure vehicles are equipped and turn away any drivers who do not have the proper tires. The BC routes affected can be found on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure website.

Will I be at fault if I don’t have the right tires for the conditions and get into an accident?

It’s important to note that if you do get into a car accident and have not taken the proper steps to ensure the correct tires for the conditions that ICBC can potentially find you at fault. According to ICBC:

“Driving without winter tires will not void your insurance if you have a claim. It also won’t mean you’re automatically at-fault in a crash. However, if you get in a crash where winter tires could have helped, not having them may affect whether — or how much — you are at fault.” ICBC has published a guide to help people identify winter tires, which can be found here.

What exactly do winter tires do?

The type of tires and how well they work on the road is directly affected by the outside temperature. Summer tires used on winter roads (anything below 7 degrees Celsius) will make the rubber on the tires even harder meaning less traction and poor braking performance as the rubber turns to essentially a hockey puck consistency. q12Winter tires are made with a different tread pattern and a soft rubber that optimize braking performance in cold weather. Unfortunately, all weather tires are starting to be proven less of a miracle than what was once thought. There is no such thing as a tire made for both types of temperature, and the result is a tire that is not optimal for either season.

From a cost perspective, money spent on winter tires are actually saving you on the lack of wear on the summer tires –10,000 km on winter tires means 10,000 an extra km on your summer tires.

I’m not changing my tires for a few days of snow in Vancouver. What else can I do?

If the thought of changing to winter tires for the short bit of weather we do get is daunting, do yourself and your fellow city dwellers a favour and look into alternate methods for getting into the city. As part of its operational procedures, the City has a comprehensive snow response plan in place following last years’ mayhem on the streets. Crews are on 24 hours a day and work with a meteorologist for tailored Vancouver-specific weather predictions. When snow or freezing temperatures are predicted, engineering crews ensure that streets are salted, brined, or ploughed depending on the conditions. This will allow for buses to function on the main arteries, allowing people to choose alternate modes to get into work over driving their vehicles.

If you find yourself in a motor vehicle accident this winter, contact one of our personal injury lawyers at Taylor and Blair for a free consultation.