Skip to main content
drive, she said

Anecdotal evidence is all you need to prove your own point; scientific proof is what you require of everyone else.

This makes perfect sense, of course. We know what we know, because we just, well, know it.

But into every life a little change must fall, and sometimes it makes more sense to consider it than to dismiss it.

I see this most frequently in discussions about winter tires. Because a driver (always The Best Driver in the World) has never used winter tires, and has not had a collision, nobody needs winter tires.

TBDITW lists off the reasons instantly: most city streets are plowed quickly; they can just stay home until it's clear; if you know how to drive, you don't need winter tires; it's a cash grab; proponents (like me) are just getting paid off to promote them. Um, no.

Here's why it might not be a bad idea to appreciate how things have changed. The gnarly snow tires my father used to slap on the back of our rear-wheel-drive station wagons are not the tires of today. They've shifted the name from snow tires to winter tires for a reason: it has a lot to do with tread, but also temperature. Compounds that stay softer in colder temperatures will provide you with better grip than the harder ones in all-seasons, which get brittle.

The single most important part of driving is the driver. But if you consider that your only contact with the road is those four small patches where your tires touch the road, I'm not sure how far down the list you can push the importance of them.

I sat watching the news the other night as the first snowfall hit the area. In the Greater Toronto Area, police attended 400 collisions or spinouts. There were more fender benders, too numerous to count. Tow trucks were shown hauling motorists out of ditches.

Would better drivers have made a difference? Of course. Would winter tires have made a difference? Certainly. I guarantee some of those involved had winter tires on; I also bet more were hit by others who didn't. Anecdotally speaking.

I've heard the argument that people with winter tires think themselves invincible, and therefore drive over their heads. I see a lot of drivers who drive over their heads, but frankly, when someone has gone to the trouble of kitting out their car with winter tires, it's because they're more cautious, not less so. Anecdotally speaking.

You could argue that if you just slowed down for conditions, traction and stopping distance wouldn't be an issue, no matter the weather. This is true, to a point. You can barely be moving, especially while turning, and catch a bad angle on ice and bash a curb; that can cost you an alignment. Changes in weather can happen quickly, catching drivers off guard. Haven't you found your cautious self suddenly up the rear-end of a fool with no lights on? You don't always get to control everything. Anecdotally speaking.

Some argue the added cost of winter tires. If you've ever returned a leased vehicle after four years and done near the average mileage of 80,000 km, you probably were hit up for new tires from the leasing company, or had to replace them yourself. Winter tires, on for five months of the year, average out the wear, and represent most of the cost of having to replace tires at turn-in time. If you own your car, you can amortize them over a longer period, or use them as a perk if you sell your car. Anecdotally speaking.

In 2008, the province of Quebec made winter tires mandatory and winter collisions fell by 17 per cent and collisions causing serious injury or death fell by 36 per cent. Factually speaking.

There is a cost involved, but it's wrong to consider only the cost and not the value. All those fender benders that didn't make it to the news broadcast? If you've ever had even a slight one, you know how costly they are to fix. In much the same way we fixate on fatal crashes and skim over injuries that often have lifelong consequences, we also concentrate on cars written off and not the impact of expensive repairs.

I'll be honest: if you think winter tires are a waste of money because you don't think you need them, fine.

But why would you ever discourage everyone around you from using them?

Interact with The Globe