Skip to main content
driving concerns

I don't understand why Quebec is the only province that requires winter tires on all cars by law. We have mandatory seat belts, why not mandatory winter tires? – Dave, Edmonton

Winter tires aren't meant for summer roads and making them mandatory might mean more people keeping them on all year.

"Making winter tires mandatory is hard on the budgets of some low-income people and has led to the law of unintended consequences in Quebec: motorists leaving their winter tires on all year long, because that's not prohibited," said George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association (APA).

Since 2008, Quebec has required winter tires on all vehicles from Dec. 15 to March 15 every year.

A 2011 study by Quebec's transportation ministry showed a 5-per-cent reduction in winter road collisions and a 3-per-cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries.

A 2012 Traffic Injury Research Foundation review of existing research found that winter tires, which have a mountain snowflake symbol, outperformed all-season tires at traction, cornering and braking in winter conditions.

Unlike all-season tires that get harder, like a hockey puck, when it drops below 7 C, the rubber in winter tires is designed to stay supple to minus 40 C.

But that means they wear out faster than all-seasons if driven all year – and in tests by Consumer Reports, winter tires generally don't stop as well as all-seasons when there's no snow or ice.

"[Another] benefit of a twice-yearly changeover is that the tires are checked for wear and pressure, and usually rotated, something that is not necessarily done when you go in just for an oil change," Iny said.

Carrot or stick?

If winter tires are better at handling and braking on dangerous winter roads, shouldn't they be required everywhere?

"I'm not in favour of requiring them. I think [greater adoption] can be achieved through education," said Raynald Marchand, general manager of programs with the Canada Safety Council. "When Quebec went ahead with their law, they were already at 90 per cent. So I think the minister chose low-hanging fruit."

Quebec is the only province requiring winter tires on all vehicles. if you don't have them, fines can range between $200-$300, plus fees.

It has a seven-day exemption for snowbirds who are heading south or coming back.

British Columbia requires either winter tires or all-seasons with the M+S (mud and snow) symbol on most highways from Oct. 1 to March 31. The fine is $121.

This summer, Vancouver city council recommended that the city consider a bylaw requiring winter tires when snow is on the ground.

Two other provinces offer incentives instead. Manitoba offers loans of up to $2,000 a car at prime plus 2 per cent. And in 2016, Ontario required all insurance companies to offer a discount to drivers with winter tires on their vehicles. The amount is decided by the insurance company.

"The Ontario insurance premium discount from some companies is sizable," Iny said.

Have a driving question? Send it to Canada's a big place, so please let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct