There are multiple reasons why it’s beneficial to have winter tires.
The 1950s police drama “Dragnet” inspired several catch phrases including “The story you are about to see is true”, “We were working the day watch”, and my personal favourite “Just the facts, ma’am”. Apparently, Sergeant Joe Friday, a fictional character created and portrayed by Jack Webb, never actually said “Just the facts, ma’am” but somehow it stuck. What is sticking in my mind these days are important facts related to winter tire usage in Canada from TRAC’s recently released 2020 Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study, and supported by other studies from Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) and Manitoba Public Insurance. In keeping with the Dragnet theme, “The facts you are about to read are true”:
In 2014, 51% of drivers used winter tires (outside of Quebec); in 2020, 65% of drivers now ride on winter tires. When Quebec is included, the national usage rate is 72%. This dramatic increase in winter tire usage is great news because it means our wintertime roadways are getting progressively safer.
Eight in ten winter tire owners believe their tires have saved them from a hazardous driving situation such as loss of control or collision, this finding from TRAC is echoed in a recent Manitoba Public Insurance Report. Based on analysis of winter month claims, winter tire use is estimated to reduce collision claim frequency by 6.3%.
Among the 35% who reported not using winter tires, their rationale included:
65% said all-seasons are good enough for winter driving,
30% said they do not drive enough in the winter to merit winter tires, and
27% cited cost as their reason for not using winter tires.
Those who find winter tires a costly endeavour, perhaps doing the math may alleviate some of the financial concerns, and TRAC’s Be Tire Smart Winter Tire Cost Calculator can do just that, as it clearly shows that drivers can own a set of winter tires for a reasonable monthly cost. Besides, winter tires may bring some unexpected savings when it comes to fuel economy and insurance rates, such as:
Using winter tires can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 5% due to superior traction, and 10-15% in tire mileage performance as opposed to using all-season tires throughout the year according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF; Winter Tires: A Review Of Research On Effectiveness And Use).
Most provinces are on board when it comes to encouraging the use of winter tires, and in Ontario (since 2016) and Newfoundland (since 2020), insurance companies are mandated to offer premium reductions for drivers using winter tires.
Some tire retailers and dealers also offer financing for the purchase of qualifying winter tires, and winter tires have become a popular add-on with car dealers when purchasing a new car.
When it comes to safety performance, at temperatures just below freezing on dry pavement, winter tires can reduce stopping distance by as much as 30% compared to vehicles equipped with all-season tires; and winter tires offer significantly better traction on snow or ice-covered road surfaces at temperatures well below -30C than an all-season tire has at 4C (TIRF).
In reality, Sergeant Joe Friday typically used the phrase “All we want are the facts, ma’am”, and sometimes “All we know are the facts, ma’am”. Regardless of the exact wording of that immortal catch phrase, when it comes to the facts, dedicated winter tires—designed only for use in winter—are hands down the best and safest option.