Snow tires are costly but needed for safety

Tire tracks cover freshly fallen snow on Waterloo, ON. Streets in 2013. (Photo: Laura Dart)

Laura Dart
News Reporter

Not only do Canadians have to brave the winter elements, so do their cars.

Winter comes with cold weather, sheets of ice on the ground and cars that slip and slide in the slick conditions. Without winter tires, cars don’t have the same traction when the ground is covered in snow and frost.

For students it can cause challenges about safely getting to and from school.

“I changed my tires this past weekend, otherwise you slip and slide everywhere,” said Gabriella Briganti, 21, a Humber College bachelor of interior design student. “You have no traction, so there’s more chance of accidents and that.

“Last year was the first year I put them on and it was really good, so I recommend it,” she said.

Quebec is only province that legally requires all vehicles be equipped with winter tires in Canada, which are mandatory from Dec. 15 until March 15, according to a Quebec provincial government website.

“Once the temperature starts to dip below 7 degrees your all-season tires start to become less effective and show signs of reduced grip,” said David Esplen, 23, sales representative at Humberview Motorsports in Mississauga and son of the firm’s owner.

“Winter tires are created from a softer rubber compound that enables them to grip the ground better when temperatures dip below the freezing level,” he said. “The effectiveness and increased safety from using snow tires has increased their use drastically over the past five years.

“In very cold areas of the country like Quebec (they) have mandated winter tires for a portion of the year which really shows the effectiveness and importance of these tires,” Esplen said.

The safety of pedestrians is also at risk when drivers do not have tires that are well maintained and able to get through the winter months. It is also important to have reliable tires to avoid collisions with pedestrians.

“I don’t drive, but I think in the winter time we should get the snow tires, its very important,” said Qian Qian Zagn, 21, a bachelor of interior design student.

The price of winter tires may be a problem for some students when there are other expenses like all-season tires and gas. Choosing winter tires or all-season tires also depends on what type of car a motorist drives.

“Personally I drive a 4×4 pickup truck all year round that has all season tires that do a great job,” said Esplen. “Vehicles like an Audi or Volkswagen come with sportier all season tires that are designed to perform better in the warm summer months of the year.”

Whether or not students should have winter tires ultimately depends on how much they use their car to travel to and from school. “It really depends on your driving habits,” said Esplen. “If I were commuting to school/work on a daily basis I would definitely get a pair of all-seasons for the warm months, and a set of winter tires.”

He said lower priced all-season and winter tires still preform well but may wear quicker and produce more noise. The cost of a cheaper set of four tires may range between $600 to $900.

“If you have a car but do not rely on it daily, then a good set of all-season tires should get you through the year,” said Esplen.

A good set of all-season tires costs in the range of $1,200 to $1,600.

In an effort to encourage more people to put winter tires on, some insurance companies are offering three to five per cent discounts on insurance starting Jan.1.

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