Ex­tend­ing Que­bec's win­ter tire law

Montreal Times - - Front Page - By Bon­nie Wurst mtl­times.ca

Given the blast of a Nor'easter that hit us with bliz­zard like con­di­tions on March 14/15th, it's a good time to ask your­self this ques­tion if you haven't al­ready should the date when it is legally al­lowed for driv­ers to re­move win­ter tires from our ve­hi­cles be changed to a later one?

Bar­ring any other po­ten­tial storms, in­clud­ing freez­ing rain and ice pel­lets, which has a high enough po­ten­tial to oc­cur be­tween the writ­ing of this ar­ti­cle and when it is pub­lished, it is enough to make one won­der about how many more ac­ci­dents and in­juries might have tran­spired should that storm have ar­rived just a day or two later af­ter March 15th, when Que­bec driv­ers can legally switch their tires back to sum­mer treads.

The So­ciété de l'as­sur­ance au­to­mo­bile du Québec (SAAQ) states that win­ter tires are manda­tory from De­cem­ber 15th to March 15th (in­clu­sive) for all pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered in Québec, as well as taxis. It also ap­plies to rental pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles as well as mopeds, mo­tor­ized scoot­ers and mo­tor­cy­cles. If your ve­hi­cle is not equipped with win­ter tires dur­ing that time you could face fines from $200 to $300 - plus costs.

The law which came into ef­fect in 2008 makes com­mon sense be­cause with­out it, hu­mans of­ten don't use their own.Win­ter tires are not only manda­tory for driv­ers in or­der to have bet­ter con­trol of their cars on snow, the tires also pro­vide bet­ter trac­tion when tem­per­a­tures start drop­ping. The rub­ber com­pound of win­ter tires is de­signed to have the flex­i­bil­ity needed for a bet­ter grip on the road sur­face in tem­per­a­tures as low as -40C. Since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law, win­ter col­li­sions have fallen by at least 17%.

Ac­cord­ing to the SAAQ web­site, 'as soon as the tem­per­a­ture drops be­low 7°C, or when there is ice or snow on the road, the rub­ber com­pound of sum­mer and all-sea­son tires hard­ens and loses its grip. Since we can gen­er­ally ex­pect such weather con­di­tions be­fore De­cem­ber 15, it is highly rec­om­mended that you equip your ve­hi­cle with win­ter tires be­fore then'.

There is only one other prov­ince in Canada hav­ing manda­tory tire laws and that is Bri­tish Columbia - al­though it does not in­clude all ar­eas, like the city of Van­cou­ver which usu­ally has a very mild, rainy win­ter and lit­tle need for win­ter tires. But as of 2014 a law stip­u­lates that be­tween Oc­to­ber 1st and March 31st 'win­ter tires must be used on pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles and com­mer­cial trucks must carry tire chains - on select moun­tain­ous re­gions'. And there are plenty of moun­tain re­gions in BC. Mon­treal's Mont-Royal is but a large snow­ball com­pared to our west coast friend's moun­tains - but the steep, wind­ing road up and over it could be chal­leng­ing in any ad­verse weather con­di­tions.

In Al­berta, snow tires or chains are re­quired by law dur­ing the pe­riod be­tween Novem­ber 1st to March 31st for those who ven­ture into the Rocky Moun­tain parks, but many still switch to win­ter tires on their own ac­cord, oth­er­wise most driv­ers use four-sea­son tires all year round. All the other prov­inces in Canada only rec­om­mend in­stalling win­ter tires when the tem­per­a­ture dips be­low 7C. In Man­i­toba, the RCMP has the ju­ris­dic­tion to close high­ways and roads dur­ing dan­ger­ous win­ter driv­ing con­di­tions - and if a driver gets caught on a closed road, they can ex­pect a hefty fine.

Clos­ing high­ways un­der ex­treme cir­cum­stances like the March 14th storm or the one too many ice storms we ex­pe­ri­ence might be a good idea. It's not just a lack of com­mon sense when driv­ers take to the roads in ad­verse con­di­tions, as many peo­ple can't af­ford to lose a day of work and are forced to slip, slide and dig their way into their work­places. The sys­tem our so­ci­ety built has no pro­vi­sions for the clear and po­ten­tial dan­gers this causes, never mind the angst.

Mon­treal driv­ers have their own unique tech­niques, with many who think they can con­trol their cars the way Rocket Richard con­trolled a puck on ice. March 20th is the day when the spring sea­son of­fi­cially ar­rives - but win­ter of­ten has its last laugh. A few spring-like days in early March has lulled us into a false sense of se­cu­rity many times. The storm on March 14th this year hit us with a snow fall of close to 40cm, cre­at­ing havoc all over the is­land and be­yond - and let's not for­get last April when close to 10cm fell on the city overnight, catch­ing many peo­ple off guard. The Sûreté du Québec re­ported a num­ber of cars skid­ding off the high­ways in and around Mon­treal be­fore it soon melted.

Late sea­son snow­storms are far from rare, in­clud­ing: March 14th 1961 with close to 25cm, March 4th 1971 when 47cm fell in bliz­zard-like con­di­tions, April 2nd 1985 there was 14cm and on March 22nd 2001 over 50cm fell.

Our manda­tory win­ter tire law is a great ini­tia­tive, and some prov­inces are care­fully watch­ing the re­sults. Per­haps we should con­tinue to lead the way by hav­ing it make more sense - by ex­tend­ing the date for the tire switch to at least to the end of March. It won’t re­ally cost us any­thing if we do, but it might costs us lives if we don't.

Do you feel Que­bec's manda­tory win­ter tire law should be ex­tended be­yond the March 15th date to March 31st - or in light of the above, even later? And what about the De­cem­ber 15th dead­line to in­stall them - should that be ear­lier?

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