Canadian drivers continue to embrace the safety advantages of winter tires
Tire and Rubber Association of Canada’s Winter Tire Report assesses public perception and the market for winter tires in Canada. This report is made available to stakeholders in the tire and automotive industries, including tire and car manufacturers, retailers, government, road safety advocacy groups, media, and consumers. The scope of this report applies to passenger and light truck vehicle categories only. TRAC reviewed and analyzed a broad range of market data and research on consumer perceptions related to winter tires in order to provide recommendations on educating Canadian motorists on safety and performance benefits of winter tires.
An online survey of 1,521 Canadian motorists was completed between October 1-3, 2021, using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.
Leger is the largest Canadian-owned polling, research and strategic marketing firm. Founded in 1986, Leger has gained an impressive knowledge base, and provides clients access to credible and reliable data. Leger clients include BlackBerry, Bank of Montreal, Johnson & Johnson, LG, L'Oreal, Mastercard, Merck, Microsoft, Migros, Nestle, Pfizer, Quebecor, Samsung, Staples, and Westjet.
TRAC’s 2021 Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study found that 76 per cent of Canadian motorists now use winter tires. Outside Quebec, where winter tires are mandated by law, winter tire usage stands at 69 per cent, up from 65 per cent in 2020. The Study also shows that 79 per cent of winter tire owners believe driving a vehicle equipped with winter tires has saved them from being involved in a potentially hazardous driving situation such as loss of control or a collision; and 89 per cent say they use winter tires because they are protecting their family with the safety advantages of winter tires. Thirty-seven per cent of drivers say COVID will continue to restrict their winter driving, while a quarter expect to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Based on statistical analysis of winter tire shipments across Canada within TRAC membership, the winter tire category has grown at an annualized rate of two per cent over the past five years, including the pandemic years 2020 and 2021. As driving slowly returns to pre-pandemic levels, this trend is likely to continue to improve. These statistics only confirm that Canadians embrace the effectiveness, improved handling and safety advantages provided by winter tires.
Winter tires are seeing remarkable success in Canada, and TRAC continues to collaborate with government, industry, road safety organizations, and other stakeholders on providing safe winter driving recommendations that include educating consumers about the safety benefits of winter tires.
The winter tire adoption statistics continue to edge upwards which is great news for wintertime road safety. The shorter stopping distances and superior grip of dedicated winter tires are an important part of their road safety equation, and winter tires are simply the best choice when it comes to driving through the Canadian winter. We are glad that Canadians are this responsive to the realities of winter driving and we will continue to educate drivers about the winter tire advantage.Carol Hochu President & CEO, TRAC
Only 35 per cent of Canadian drivers used winter tires in 1998. That figure has more than doubled in 2021. TRAC’s 2021 Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study shows that winter tire usage had grown to 76 per cent in 2021 in comparison to 2017 at 66 per cent, and 2014 at 58 per cent. Excluding Quebec, where the winter tires are mandatory, 69 per cent of the Canadian drivers will use winter tires in the 2021/2022 winter season.
|Year / Province||2021 (%)||2020 (%)||2019 (%)||2018 (%)||2017 (%)||2016 (%)|
* Mandatory winter tire usage since 2008
While there is strong trend in utilization of winter tires, three-in-ten motorists outside Quebec still resist winter tires. Top reasons for not owning winter tires are:
|All-season tires are good enough||58%||27%||56%||72%||55%||62%|
|I don't drive much in winter||21%||60%||24%||11%||20%||19%|
|I have no place to store off-season tires||10%||-||11%||6%||19%||7%|
|Don't know/prefer not to answer||3%||6%||2%||3%||8%||2%|
Safety is a key factor for drivers who use winter tires. Eighty-nine per cent of drivers say they use winter tires because they are protecting their family with the safety advantages of winter tires, (i.e. enhanced traction, cornering, and stopping power in cold weather). Others (29%) cite lower auto insurance premiums offered by their insurance provider as motivation to buy winter tires, and 20 per cent say it’s to get greater fuel economy.
According to TRAC’s 2018 Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study, winter tire laws, public education, and financial incentives such as lower auto insurance premiums and low interest loans on winter tire purchases play significant part in motivating drivers to use winter tires and make Canadian wintertime roadways safer. Advice from family and friends also represents a major driver, and the increases in winter tire use link directly with drivers sharing their positive experience with winter tires:
The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada tracks all tire shipments into the Canadian market from its members, representing more than 80 per cent of the market in Canada.
Due to COVID-related market challenges related to lower kilometers being driven in 2020 and 2021, the winter tire category has slowed to an annualized rate of two per cent (based on statistical analysis of winter tire shipments across Canada). As the economy rebounds and driving returns to the pre-pandemic levels, growth in this segment is expected to rebound as Canadians continue to adopt winter tires.
The Canadian winter tire market has seen a solid growth over several years prior to the pandemic and the trend is likely to continue in the future. Canadians continue to embrace winter tires for their performance advantages. Once the temperature dips below seven degrees Celsius, today’s high-tech winter tire products outperform other types of tires in all winter weather conditions.Barry Yutronkie Director, TRAC
*Based on data collected by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada.
The following findings are supported by a report from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF; www.tirf.ca) citing a range of studies that show conclusively that winter tires provide superior traction, braking and cornering in all cold-weather driving conditions, whether the road surface is dry, wet, icy or snow- covered. Winter tires play a measurable role in increasing road safety and protecting drivers and traffic participants. The use of winter tires contributes to:
The superior traction and braking capabilities of winter tires are proven to save lives and reduce personal injuries. The Quebec experience with its mandatory winter tire usage and full data represents the best example.
A 2011 study by Le ministère des Transports du Québec demonstrates the road safety benefits of legislating winter tires. After the first two seasons of enforcement (winter 2008-2009/2009-2010):
Canadian government agencies and road safety groups have been very receptive to the safety advantages of winter tires and continue to work toward increased awareness and driver education in this segment, and continue to encourage increased winter tire usage nationwide by providing education, leadership, and guidance. TRAC’s ongoing research into usage of winter tires continues to demonstrate that:
TRAC’s role focuses on educating government leaders, interest groups, stakeholders and the public about the safety and performance benefits of winter tires; and has been participating in:
|British Columbia||Certain mountainous highways require the use of tires marked with the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol or M+S marking between October 1st and March 31st.|
|Manitoba||Launched in 2014, Manitoba Public Insurance offers low-interest loans for the purchase and installation of qualified winter tires. The program. The loans are to a maximum of $2,000 per vehicle, for up to 48 months at the rate of prime, plus two per cent. Since 2014, more than 173,000 applications have been processed. Find more information about the program at www.mpi.mb.ca.|
|Newfoundland||Effective January 1, 2020, the government of Newfoundland implemented legislation which requires all insurance providers to reduce auto insurance premiums to drivers who have four winter tires installed on their personal passenger vehicles. Motorists are advised to ask their insurer about how to qualify.|
|Ontario||Effective January 1, 2016, the government of Ontario implemented legislation which requires all insurance providers to reduce auto insurance premiums to drivers who have four winter tires installed on their personal passenger vehicles. Motorists are advised to ask their insurer about how to qualify.|
|Quebec||Since 2008, the Province of Quebec has mandated winter tires on all passenger vehicles. Winter tires are required from Dec. 1st, to Mar. 15th.|
The Winter Driving Safety Alliance (shiftintowinter.ca) is a multi-agency working group that shares a common goal of reducing frequency and severity of winter-related motor vehicle crashes. Committed to improving the safety of drivers during the winter months, the Alliance is comprised of more than a dozen public, private and non-profit bodies, including TRAC.
Manitoba Public Insurance (www.mpi.mb.ca) is a non-profit Crown Corporation dedicated to keeping Manitoba’s roads safe and vehicle insurance rates low since 1971. Its mandate includes education on winter driving, and the Winter Tire Program which provides low-interest financing for winter tires to eligible Manitobans.
Starting on January 1, 2020, Newfoundland enacted changes to the Automobile Insurance Legislation Changes, and insurers in the province are required to provide a discount for winter tires.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Inter-Agency Road Safety Marketing Committee brings provincial road safety partners together to share information, support joint initiatives and develop awareness campaigns. The Agency works with community groups to promote safe and responsible winter driving practices, and increasing public awareness regarding MTO winter maintenance operations.
Most provinces and territories provide drivers with traveler information services. The 511 road conditions service is available in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Yukon. In Saskatchewan, the number is 1-888-335-7623 (toll-free in Canada), in British Columbia it’s 1-800-550-4997 (toll-free in North America), and in Northwest Territories it’s 1-800- 661-0750.
Canadians have many choices when it comes to winter tires. Individual driving habits and skillset, as well as vehicle type, road conditions, and local weather patterns play an important role when it comes to choosing the right winter tire. TRAC encourages drivers to research the tire option that is right for their individual needs: speak with local tire dealer or repair facility, and make the decision according to your individual driving needs. Additional information and resources about the safety, performance characteristics, and the list of dedicated winter tires offered by TRAC members for the 2021 winter season can be found here.
A winter tire features the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (also referred to as the ‘Alpine Symbol’) on its sidewall. The tire carrying this symbol meets the industry snow traction performance requirements.
A winter tire features the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (also referred to as the ‘Alpine Symbol’) on its sidewall. The tire carrying this symbol meets the industry snow traction performance requirements. Winter tire testing is rigorous, reliable and sophisticated. Winter tires marked with 3PMS symbol must follow the ASTM F-1805 tire test on medium-packed snow in standardized testing conditions. These tires are required to meet or exceed minimum industry snow traction requirements.
All winter tires manufactured by TRAC member tire makers undergo thorough and sophisticated testing. The ASTM F-1805 Driving Traction Test is a performance-based standard. Only tires with advanced designs, treads, and rubber compounds can meet or exceed this performance standard. Canadian federal regulation under Transport Canada mandates that all tires that carry the 3PMS symbol must pass this test.
Winter tires provide superior traction and braking on cold-weather road surfaces. The superior grip of today’s high-tech winter tires is the result of more flexible rubber compounds that provide superior traction even at extremely cold temperatures. These specialized rubber compounds coupled with sophisticated tread designs allow for greater control and braking capability on cold, dry, snow-covered, icy or slushy roads. Shorter stopping distances in emergency situations represent the primary safety feature of the advanced technology in today’s winter tires. Research detailed in the study from Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF; www.tirf.ca) shows that:
Advances in rubber compounding and tire design now offer more choice for consumers when it comes to tires for winter driving. Some dedicated winter tires are designed to perform better in snow, while others are designed to perform better on ice.
While dedicated winter tires are designed specifically for winter conditions, consumers have been introduced to tires which also display the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol, however are made to be driven in warmer months as well, while meeting the snow traction performance requirements.
For the very best performance and safety in winter driving TRAC recommends dedicated tires manufactured specifically for winter road conditions. These tires are designed only for use during winter months and should be removed during the non-winter seasons as the tread compound is much too soft for summer driving.
As noted earlier, over 50 per cent of drivers currently not using winter tires believe that all-season tires offer sufficient traction and stopping power in winter road conditions. An “all-season” tire implies that it is suitable for all weather conditions; however, these tires do not have the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol, and do not meet the necessary snow traction requirements to be considered a winter tire.
All-season tires are a compromise when it comes to traction and stopping power during winter driving season.
The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC; www.tracanada.ca) is the national trade association representing tire makers, rubber product manufacturers and importers as well as rubber recyclers and suppliers of goods and services related to the industry. TRAC is committed to educating drivers regarding proper tire care, maintenance, and usage. A key advocacy goal in the cold-weather months is to raise awareness of safe winter driving as well as the safety and performance benefits of winter tires.