TORONTO – Although winter is still more than a month old, most of Canada has seen significant snow.
This has drivers in many regions struggling to get winter tires on their vehicles – but many experts agree that waiting for snow in the forecast before changing tires leaves it too late.
From the real benefits of winter tires, to the fact that raising the windshield wipers of a parked vehicle really makes a difference, CTVNews.ca is looking at some of the most misunderstood and overlooked aspects of winter driving.
HOW WINTER TIRES WORK
Some drivers know them as "snow tires," but winter tires offer much more than protection against stormy roads.
"People think you don't need them because there is no snow – but in fact … these winter tires will behave much better than any other tire you have," said Chris Palmer, regional coach of Young Drivers of Canada on Wednesday. a telephone interview.
"Rubber is made from a different kind of compound that adheres better to cold surfaces. Winter tires will hit the road much more significantly, stopping much faster."
Tire experts say the magic temperature is 7 ° C. After conditions get colder than that, even tires advertised as "all season" begin to lose their grip, making the best bet for tire riders. Winter.
Kaitlynn Furse, communications director for the Southern Ontario Canadian Automobile Association, told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday that winter tires can reduce a vehicle's stopping distance during cold weather by approximately two lengths.
"It makes a big difference when you're on a snowy or icy road," she said.
Drivers seem to be getting this message. A report released Tuesday The Canadian Tire and Rubber Association (TRAC) finds that 75% of motorists surveyed use winter tires, up from 66% in 2017 and 35% in 1998. Eighty percent said they believed using winter tires saved them from a potentially dangerous situation.
Among drivers who said they do not use winter tires, a small majority said it was because they believe their all-season tires are good enough – a position backed by virtually no one in the road safety industry.
ARE WINTER TIRES REQUIRED?
In most of Canada, drivers are not required to wear winter tires.
The only complete exception is Quebec, which made them mandatory in 2008. The province has changed its rules this year, extending the period when winter tires are to be used, so that they now cover from December 1 to March 15. tires can be fined up to $ 300.
Drivers in some parts of B.C. are required to wear specific tires. between October 1st and April 30th, Although all-season tires qualify under government rules. The standard fine is $ 121 for a passenger vehicle with improper tires.
Provinces that do not need winter tires still try to encourage their use. Manitoba Public Insurance offers low interest loans for winter tires, while insurance companies in Ontario need to offer lower premiums to drivers who have four winter tires on their vehicles by November 15th.
Alberta's Transport Minister recently said that there are no plans to make winter tires mandatory in that province.
The TRAC report found that Quebec has the highest winter tire absorption rate – perhaps unsurprisingly – with 100% of drivers using them, followed by Maritimes with 91%. At the other end of the scale, 59% of drivers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan reported using winter tires.
The number of road crashes in winter declined slightly in Quebec following the compulsory winter tires, as well as the number of injuries and deaths caused by winter crashes.
MYTH ALL ENGINE
Palmer said four-wheel drive is often misunderstood by people who mistakenly believe it gives them better handling on icy roads, driving them "very fast" and putting everyone on the road in danger.
"One of the jokes we've had for many, many years is that … most of the cars you'll see in the ditch are the four-wheel drive," he said.
"They think because they have this system in the car, it's like magic … and it's not."
The main benefit of four-wheel drive in winter conditions is that it makes it easier for vehicles to pull from a stop, Palmer said.
"What it doesn't do is help you stop faster or drive better," he added.
The Greater Toronto area was repeatedly hit by snow this week, leaving several cars in states that made Palmer shake his head.
He said he saw many vehicles with rear windows, license plates and even snow-covered headlights, because drivers didn't bother to pull them off. Furse said this creates an obvious problem.
"If you don't clear all of your vehicle's snow and ice, it could slip and affect your visibility on your own windshield while driving, or it could damage the visibility of others behind you," she said.
In addition to the potential danger caused by snow flying from a moving vehicle, not taking off the car before taking off carries a financial cost to drivers, as heating the vehicle enough to melt the snow requires extra fuel.
The Canadian Security Council recommends that "the mirrors, all windows and the top of the vehicle are free of snow or ice before entering the road".
What about the cleaners?
Windshield wipers are incredibly useful when it comes to shoveling a vehicle while it is in motion.
For maximum wiper performance, it is important to change blades regularly. Palmer said most wiper blades last only six months before being replaced.
Some drivers like to lift the windshield wipers when parking their car if they expect snow or freezing rain to fall. Others don't, fearing possible damage to the cleaners.
Palmer said he was taught to lift his vanes when he was growing up in northern Ontario, and has kept it to this day, noting that they make cleaning more effective faster.
"In my experience doing this 25 years ago, I've never had a problem," he said.
PREVENTION AND PREPARATION
According to Furse, many drivers ignore certain aspects of winter tire safety, such as checking the pressure and pressure of a vehicle's tires and battery.
"People assume that if you put on winter tires, you're ready – but the truth is that you have to keep up with the manufacturer's standards over the winter," she said.
Tire pressure decreases as temperatures drop. CAA recommends checking the pressure of each tire once a month.
The Canadian Security Council says It is important that drivers have extra windshield washer fluid in their vehicle along with a snow brush and ice scraper.
Furse suggests that drivers also carry an emergency kit that includes warm-up items, such as blankets and gloves, and items to increase visibility during an emergency, such as a flashlight or beacons.
A more recent addition to the recommended emergency kit is a spare phone charger.
"You can't ask for help if you don't have a phone," said Furse.
What matters most
No matter which tires are in a vehicle and what contingency plans have been made, bad driving habits can still nullify the most ardent preparations.
Palmer once spent a day with tire developers on a frozen horse track, testing various vehicles, wheels and configurations. One thing was clear: the driver's attitude made more difference in safety than anything else. He sees the same thing when he's on the roads.
"Some people have winter tires and drive more aggressively, which is hurting the point," he said.
Canadian Security Council notes that driving in winter "requires extra caution." It warns drivers to keep their vehicles moving "softly and slowly" and be prepared for unexpected maneuvers from other drivers.
Most important of all, Furse said, drivers have extra time to reach their destinations.
"We often assume we can get out on the streets as quickly as we do during the summer, but plan ahead and set that alarm early so you have time to get your car out and get things ready," she said.
"That way you are not in a hurry and can drive according to weather conditions."