Vancouver isn't exactly known for its epic winter snowfalls.
Still, every so often, the city gets a significant blast of winter, making for poor roads and tough driving conditions.
It begs the question: Should drivers in B.C. have winter tires? What about chains on their tires? Are snow tires mandatory?
“The general rule is that winter tires are not mandatory in B.C.” says Adam Grossman with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). “You don't have to have them on your vehicle; however, there are certain highways and roads in B.C. where winter tires or chains are required to drive on at certain times of the year.”
Those roads are mainly highways in the higher elevations and coastal mountains, where snow is more likely to fall between November and April. The Ministry of Transportation puts signage on the roads where winter tires are required.
“You're seriously risking your chance of crashing if you're travelling in heavy snow conditions which you would normally need winter tires, but there is also a fine attached to that,” explains Gorssman. “Police if they stop you will fine you and will make you turn back around on that highway or road, as well.”
John Leung is the Assistant Manager at Volco Tires and Wheels in Vancouver. He says that despite the tire requirements outside of the lower mainland, most Vancouverites don't invest in winter tires.
“Winter tires, actually, in the lower mainland aren't as popular as, say, back east because it doesn't really snow as often here and people get away with using an all-season tire,” he says.
But what about days when Metro Vancouver is covered in snow?
“The days it does snow, it does get busy,” Leung says. “What we usually do is tell customers to get it done as early as possible. You avoid the wait times, for one. And second, you have basically better choices of winters. Probably something a little more in their budget.”
“There are not too many days when the conditions in the lower mainland or downtown Vancouver are that bad,” Grossman told The Weather Network. “I think the main thing is that if you can afford to make the investment in winter tires, as they can be expensive to change your tires, then yes, it's a good investment to make.”
Leung agrees. “Truth be told, a winter provides the best stopping distance. People neglect that, especially when it's raining. A winter tire, especially seven degrees or below, has a much greater stopping distance than an all-season tire.”
Still, if you can't afford winter tires or chains for your tires, there are some alternatives on snowy days. Grossman recommends working from home or taking public transit. He also recommends leaving for work a half-hour or hour later than normal. “It can give road crews that opportunity to get out and clear heavy snowfall and ice. In that hour, roads can become much better.”
While all-season tires are still appropriate for most drivers in Metro Vancouver, Grossman says that checking the conditions of those tires is key.
“It's more than just the type of tire, it's the overall condition of the tire that you want to be looking at this time of year,” he explains. “If you're going to keep regular all-season tires on your vehicle, make sure they're inflated. They can deflate much quicker in colder weather. Also making sure the tread on those tires is in good condition, as well. Some people are driving with winter tires that are about 10 years old and the tread can be worn down.”
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