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It's time to install your winter tires

Even if the snow hasn't started to fall, the temperatures have and that's important

Published: November 17, 2012, 9:00 PM
Updated: October 15, 2014, 11:42 PM

The first snow of the season has already arrived in some parts of Canada. And it won't be far behind in the rest of the country.

But, if you're like many Canadian drivers, you won't even think about installing snow tires on your vehicle until the first really big one hits. Or maybe even the second.

Think again. Even if the snow hasn't started to fall yet, the temperatures have – and that point is just as important.

Rubber in all-season tires – with which most cars are typically equipped – starts to lose elasticity and harden at around 7 degrees C, significantly reducing the tire’s ability to grip the road, according to the Automotive Industries Association (AIA) of Canada.

Nigh-time temperatures are already well below that threshold in much of the country.

Winter tires, on the other hand, maintain their elasticity in much colder temperatures, typically down to the area of -40 C.

While it’s certainly important to adjust your driving habits to weather conditions, ccording to according to AIA president, Marc Brazeau, the most important thing you can do to protect yourselves and your loved ones as we transition into winter is to install winter tires – on all four wheels.

"The idea that all-season tires are as effective as winter tires is a dangerous misconception," says Brazeau. "The design and durability of winter tires improves performance and enhances safety in a variety of road conditions. They’re the one and only choice for winter driving."

Research conducted by the Government of Quebec since winter tire use was mandated in that province has proven conclusively that driving on winter tires saves lives and reduces serious injuries.

The 2011 study, which compared Quebec road accident statistics before and after winter tire use became compulsory, shows a 5% reduction in traffic-collision injuries that can be directly attributed to winter tire use.

That research concludes that widespread use of winter tires has prevented about 575 traffic-collision injuries per winter in Quebec and that vehicle crashes resulting in death or serious injury declined by 3%.

While buying winter tires and having them installed can be expensive, "The cost is negligible compared to the benefits like improved traction and reduced stopping distance," says Brazeau.

Don't bet your life against it.