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Editorial: Winter Tires Make Bad Law

(Sudbury (Ont.) Star) As of Nov. 15, Quebec drivers will have to equip their vehicles with snow tires from that day each year through to April 15.

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The province estimates 90% of vehicles already use snow tires, while an estimated 500,000 people rely on all-season tires, so compliance is not expected to be a problem.

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The law makes Quebec the first province to require winter tires, but perhaps not the last. Already, other provinces are mulling it over, including Ontario and New Brunswick. Should they?

Watching Quebec drivers and police services deal with the new law will be instructive, but it’s hard to imagine such an intrusive law making much of a difference.

A number of factors must be considered. First, average snow conditions vary wildly across the province. Some parts of southern Ontario rarely see snow, while the north is generally buried under it. Forcing drivers in Windsor to spend $800 on snow tires is unlikely to make roads safer there.

Second, municipalities across Ontario clear their roads to different standards and – as Sudbury drivers know all too well – those standards are subject to change from year to year. If you normally drive in the north or on poorly maintained roads, snow tires should be a no-brainer.

However, if you normally drive in the city or on the highway, you could be expected to safely use all-season tires as long as you modify your driving to possible slippery winter conditions.

The province of Quebec estimates about 10% of the motorists who don’t use winter tires are involved in 38% of the accidents on Quebec roads in the winter. In Ontario, the majority of the 27,000 motorists who lost control on Ontario highways last year did so because of poor weather conditions.

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Many of those accidents could have been prevented if the driver had slowed down, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino says.

Fantino is pushing to amend the Highway Traffic Act so drivers who get into accidents while it’s raining or snowing would be required to explain the precautions they took to adjust to the conditions. Weather alone would no longer be an excuse for an accident.

That’s a fair idea. The law generally requires people to show they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent harm to others. Use of winter tires is already one such measure, but there are many others. Greater Sudbury Police regularly advise that driving slower, keeping your distance and never intentionally driving in icy conditions will significantly reduce the number of winter accidents. Indeed, police generally agree accidents are caused by drivers and not by their cars or tires.

Although driving on summer tires in the winter is dangerous and ill-advised, driving all-season tires in the winter is reasonable for most Ontarians. Forcing all Ontarians to buy winter tires is an idea that should not gain traction. (Tire Review/Akron)

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