RESOURCE - Winter Tires: A Review of Research on Effectiveness and Use

TIRF LogoThe Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reports that using winter tires during the winter months can increase the likelihood of avoiding a costly collision. The challenge researchers discovered was getting drivers to use winter tires. The report looks at existing Canadian and international research on the efficacy of winter tires and their potential effects. The study, sponsored by the Winter Driving Safety Coalition, also explored the public’s perceptions and use of winter tires.

The advantages of using winter tires are not understood by many drivers. The study reviewed a number of public opinion polls and among non-winter tire users the extra cost of buying winter tires was a key factor for their decision. This was followed by the belief that all-season and summer tires were sufficient for winter driving in their region, and that their vehicle’s safety features negated the need for winter tires. Researchers say that this is not the case.


Read Winter Tires: A Review of Research on Effectiveness and Use (PDF)

There is no doubt that good "winter" tires improve a vehicle's traction on ice and snow. In BC, the legislators forgot or were ignorant of two situations though; Heavy trucks and motorcycles.

Heavy truck drivers may well be driving on California roads but find themselves in the snowy, slippery mountains of BC a day or so later. Also, they are often pulling someone else's trailer and have no ability to swap tires. For this reason, the requirement is to carry chains.

There are no "winter" tires manufactured for motorcycles. I'm told it is a liability issue by the manufacturers. There are "off road" tires which will claw their way through almost anything but they don't have a snowflake on the sidewall. Ignorance of this fact caused several citations even during periods of bright sunshine, bare roads and +20C temperatures in BC's interior. Note that the Lower Mainland is exempt from the "Winter Tire" requirement.

When this was brought to Transportation Minister Todd Stone's attention, he stated that he would speak to the Detachment Commanders about having their officers use "Discretion".  Well discretion my foot!  This is something a seasoned officer learns over time but the kid, chip on his shoulder, fresh out of Depot, doesn't know the meaning.  The book is the book, eh?  (Yes, I personally spoke to Stone on this issue.)  Anyway, a couple of years later and we now have a situation where "motorcycles" are not mentioned in the legislation and are not depicted on the "winter tire" signage .... sort of "legal by omission" like lane splitting in California was.

But studded tires .... I was one of the first to use these back in my Rallying days .... early 1960's. I had a good set of snow tires on my 1962 Volvo PV544 B18 that had been loaded with studs. They were probably Pirellis and I don't remember how many studs we got into them but I remember in the first winter rally with these on.  We were on Hwy 1 heading to Kamloops from Cache Creek. The road was sheet ice but my traction was about the same as a wet road so maintaining the speed limit (probably 60 MPH) was no problem. I came up to and passed an RCMP patrol car who was slipping and sliding at perhaps 40 MPH. Next thing I see is the patrol car almost losing it in my mirrors. Great until a couple of miles short of Kamloops where we're waved over in a road block and asked if I'd past an RCMP cruiser. I said yes and was detained until the officer that I'd past caught up and cited me for "dangerous driving" or something similar. My suggestion that just because he couldn't drive didn't mean that I couldn't probably didn't help his disposition.

No matter. I decided to fight this one in the Kamloops court and drove up there a few weeks later ... still on some pretty icy roads. I questioned the officer on several points asking if he had observed me slipping or sliding ... "No". When I passed him, did I appear to be out of control ... "No". And so it went until finally the Judge interuppted and asked why I could maintain control when the officer could not. "Studded tires, your Honour."  Next thing I know, I've got the old Judge in my passenger seat and I'm buzzing around downtown Kamloops and found an open parking lot that was sheet ice. A few laps, stops and starts and we're back at the courthouse. "Case dismissed!" It was worth the drive.