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Winter Tire & Driving Statistics You Need To Know — Staying Safe On Canadian Roads

December 13, 2023

It’s that time of year again when temperatures start to plummet, hoodies and jackets become non-negotiables, and it starts to get dark a bit too early for the liking of most Canadians.

Winter weather also brings about slick and slippery road conditions. Without proper winter tires, these conditions could lead to your car slipping and sliding along roads, highways, and streets. 

In fact, summer tires start to harden at 7C, while all-season tires become stiff at -10C. Winter tires remain flexible ensuring proper grip on the roads all the way down to -40C

Rigid or hard tires have a harder time gripping the road and maintaining traction, which is critically important when roads are covered in snow, sleet, or ice.

With that said, here are some statistical insights into the benefits of winter tires and why you should consider installing them even as early as Fall:

The Benefits of Winter Tires 

There is quite a stark difference between the amount of traction that winter tires have on roads during winter months versus summer or even all-season tires. You may think all-season tires are adequate and although their name suggests that you can leave them on all-season long, Canada’s climate means that winter tires are extremely beneficial. These are now even required by law in Quebec, British Columbia, and parts of Alberta. 

In the 2 years after the winter tire laws came into effect, Quebec had 574 fewer people injured in winter road collisions and deaths and serious injuries were down by 3%. Furthermore, the annual crashes in Quebec have been halved since the law was introduced.

Winter tires are not only beneficial for insurance rates in the case of the winter tire discount, but they can also help you stop about 6-7 feet when braking compared to all-season tires on average, which can make all the difference in preventing collisions and avoiding injury and damages. 

A Canadian study also found that winter tire usage resulted in a 5% decline in accidents during the winter months. 

The tread design is why winter tires are superior. They feature “sipes”, zig-zag slits that provide additional grip by adding smaller grip edges and by continuously removing water from the surfaces of roads. This unique tread, depth, and pattern help it stand apart from its all-season and summer counterparts.

Treads wear away over time leading to a loss in traction. When a winter tire is at half of its original tread, acceleration falls about 14% and on wet surfaces, stopping distances increase by about 7%. At half tread, most drivers wouldn’t even consider a replacement since the tire won’t look drastically different, but it does significantly affect its performance.

With winter around the corner, hopefully, these statistics have opened your eyes to the importance of winter tires. 

Swapping your tires out early in the Fall and monitoring them every season is a good place to start and can save you pain, frustration, and even your life down the line.

For more on winter tires and to learn about getting your winter tire discount, click here.

Winter Tire FAQ

What are the benefits of using winter tires?

Winter tires offer several benefits in Canada's cold and snowy conditions. These benefits include improved traction, shorter stopping distances, better handling on icy or snow-covered roads, and enhanced safety during winter driving. They are designed with a special rubber compound that remains flexible in low temperatures, allowing for better grip on icy surfaces.

When should you change your tires to winter tires?

It's recommended to change to winter tires in Canada when temperatures consistently drop below 7°C (44°F). This is because the rubber in all-season or summer tires can harden in colder temperatures, reducing their effectiveness on snow and ice.

Where in Canada are winter tires mandatory? Is there a law for winter tires in Ontario?

In Canada, some provinces and territories have laws or regulations requiring the use of winter tires during specific winter months. For example, British Columbia, Quebec, and parts of Alberta have mandatory winter tire laws. However, the specific requirements and enforcement can vary, so it's essential to check the regulations in your particular area.

Are winter tires necessary?

Winter tires are highly recommended in Canada, especially in regions with harsh winter conditions. While not always mandatory by law, they significantly improve safety and traction in cold and snowy weather.

Can I put only 2 winter tires on?

It's not recommended to install only two winter tires. For balanced handling and traction, it's best to have all four tires matching in terms of type (winter or all-season). Mixing tire types can lead to unpredictable handling and reduced safety.

What is the winter tire discount?

Some insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders who use winter tires. These discounts are designed to encourage safer winter driving and can help offset the cost of purchasing winter tires. You can learn more here.

What are considered winter driving conditions?

Winter driving conditions in Canada typically include:

  • Snow and ice on the roads
  • Reduced visibility due to snowfall
  • Cold temperatures
  • Icy patches and slush
  • Can you drive a lowered car in the winter?

Can you use winter tires in the summer?

Winter tires are not designed for warm weather, and using them in summer can lead to rapid wear and reduced performance. It's best to switch to all-season or summer tires when temperatures consistently stay above 7°C (44°F).

How difficult is it to drive in snow?

Driving in snow can be challenging, especially during heavy snowfall or icy conditions. It requires slower speeds, increased following distances, careful steering, and braking to maintain control. Proper winter tires, along with cautious driving practices, can make winter driving safer and less difficult. It's also essential to be familiar with winter driving techniques and to have emergency supplies in your vehicle.