Let it snow!

Lynsey Kitching


It’s after October 1, which means it may snow any day now. And that’s okay, because we all have our winter tires on and are ready for it, right?

Because as of October 1, it is the law that you need to have winter tires on to drive on the highways around Tumbler Ridge

With one main highway to and from Dawson Creek and a second to Chetwynd, it is important for drivers leaving Tumbler to know the rules, and the rules are thus: these highways require winter tires or chains from Oct. 1 to Apr. 30 every year.

If you just want to drive around town, you don’t need winter tires, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, “You only need to have winter tires on your vehicle when you pass the road-side signs saying you must have winter tires (on the designated routes). Sections of highways requiring winter tires or chains onboard are clearly marked with roadside signs. Should you go beyond that point without the proper tires, you may be turned around by RCMP and subject to a fine. If a municipality wants to pass a bylaw that is up to them.”

That said, the local constabulary is within their rights to issue tickets if a vehicle is “not equipped for winter driving.”

It is very easy for the RCMP to tell if someone has the wrong tires for the conditions. “It is not difficult at all, they are clearly marked,” says a local RCMP officer. “In serious injury and fatal collisions, the police will have a mechanical inspection conducted on the vehicles, which include measurements of the tread depths on all the tires. These inspections will establish if the tire type and/or its condition were contributory to the crash. It can potentially come down to a liability issue for the driver. They are ultimately responsible for that vehicle and its condition on the road.”

“All manufactured tires are clearly marked with a designation for their use. Some may be marked as an all-season tire, while others have a winter tire designation. The clear definition of a winter tire has been the topic of numerous discussions lately,” says the RCMP.

Most all-season tires will have the M&S markings on the side and are currently acceptable in winter conditions. A true winter tire, or a tire specifically designed to be used in ice and snow conditions will be marked with the mountain peak and snow flake. In some cases it will be marked on the sidewall as a ‘Winter Tire’. This is certainly dependent on the manufacturer. Tires are also equipped with wear bar indicators, which are raised sections of the rubber in between the tread. When the tread is worn to the same level as these wear bar indicators, it is a clear indicating the tires should be replaced. The BC Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (BCMVAR) outlines the tires shall have no less than 3.5 mm of tread depth across the surface of the tire in contact with the road. The RCMP also explains driving without winter tires could put a driver at risk for civil suits and lawsuits, if injuries are caused in a collision involving a vehicle with inappropriate tires. “If a vehicle is involved in a collision, where the contributing factors are attributed to improper or worn out tires, the owner could be held criminal or civilly liable. Mechanical inspections are performed on vehicles involved in serious or fatal crashes, to determine if there are contributing mechanical factors in the collision. Motorists who operate improperly equipped or illegally equipped vehicles on the highways, place the lives of others at risk and can be held accountable for that decision,” says the RCMP.

Though being properly equipped is very important, the RCMP explain seven out of 10 speed-related crashes are caused by driving too fast for the road conditions. Driving too fast for road and weather conditions can result in a fine of $167 and demerit points on a driver’s license, under Section 144(1)(c) of the BCMVAR. From October to December, a significant increase in speed-related crashes is realized in BC.

So that is the legal side of not having winter tires or driving too fast for conditions, so what about the insurance side?

ICBC says, “For your safety and the safety of other drivers, ICBC recommends winter tires for driving in snow and ice, especially if you live in an area where you would normally expect a lot of snow. All season tires begin to lose their elasticity and grip on the road at temperatures below seven degrees Celsius, according to Transport Canada.”

Driving without winter tires will not void your insurance if you need to make a claim. ICBC states, “Driving without winter tires will not void your insurance if you have a claim. It also won’t mean you’re automatically at-fault in a crash. However, if you get in a crash where winter tires could have helped, not having them may affect whether, or how much you are at-fault.”

ICBC also explains there is a highway speed and safety review underway through the Ministry of Transportation, which will include reviewing existing definitions of winter tires. “There have been many improvements in tire technology in recent years, resulting in some confusion around what is a “winter tire”. Many winter tires have the mountain snowflake symbol, while many others bear the designation M+S meaning traction in mud and snow,” says ICBC.

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone says, “Tires with the mountain snowflake symbol, which are specifically designed to meet cold weather performance standards, are the best choice for safe travel in winter conditions. These are the tires that I use on my vehicle for safe winter driving.”

With files from Mike Carter.