Extending Quebec's winter tire law
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?