Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitobans don't roll on winter tires

Lowest percentage of motorists who change wheels for icy season

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If you had to pick between spending about $1,000 on a flight to Miami or four winter tires, what would you choose?

Most Manitobans -- according to an industry group -- would rather dream about the beach than deal with the icy reality of a Canadian winter.

Manitoba drivers lag behind the nation in switching to winter tires, with only 20 per cent of the province's motorists opting in, says the Ontario-based Rubber Association of Canada, which represents 14 tire-makers.

Glen Curtis, owner of Curtis Tire Service on Arlington Street, said he would personally choose tires over the tropics for safety reasons.

"It just makes a difference," said Curtis, who gave his wife winter tires as a Christmas gift.

Though Manitoba lags behind other provinces, Curtis said winter-tire sales have increased annually at the 95-year-old business.

The rubber association's findings are estimates based on tire shipments and vehicle-registration data.

Quebec is the only province with legislation that makes winter tires mandatory. Manitoba has no plans to travel down that road.

"Manitoba is not currently considering mandatory use, because winter conditions here are very different than in, say, Quebec," said a spokeswoman for Steve Ashton, the province's minister of transportation and infrastructure.

"Manitoba has significantly less snow, it has colder temperatures and Manitoba's roads are more likely to be straight and flat as opposed to Quebec's."

But the province still encourages drivers to consider purchasing winter tires and exercise increased caution while driving during the winter months, she said.

Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation said Monday several southern roads in the province were ice-covered and slippery.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance data from 2006 to 2010, there are an average of 28,415 crashes each year in the province. About 31 per cent of them happen in December, January and February.

"We encourage vehicle owners to educate themselves as to what tire actually best suits their driving needs, and in some situations, that may be a snow tire, and in other situations, it might be a four-season radial," said MPI spokesman Brian Smiley. MPI doesn't track how many vehicles have snow tires, he added.

Manitoba's aversion to winter tires is reflected in another study published last February by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

The report cited information from a 2008 RBC Insurance poll that stated 31 per cent of car owners in Manitoba and Saskatchewan used winter tires versus 41 per cent of those surveyed in Alberta and 48 per cent in B.C. About 72 per cent of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland respondents said they used winter tires.

About 37 per cent of people who responded to a Canadian Automobile Association survey in February 2011 said they owned winter tires. Those who didn't cited cost and owning an all-wheel-drive vehicle as reasons.

Of the more than 11,000 people who responded, only 31 per cent said they thought winter tires should be mandatory.

Const. Stephane Fontaine, a collision deconstructionist with the Winnipeg Police Service, said at a police press conference Monday he supports using winter tires.

"Winter tires do exactly what they claim to do," Fontaine said. "They help braking and stopping and control on winter roads."

CAA Manitoba spokeswoman Liz Peters said motorists should inquire about winter tires, as some studies suggest they can decrease stopping distances by 40 per cent.


-- with file from Aldo Santin and Jen Skerritt

WINTER-TIRE TRACTION: What percentage of each province's drivers have them? Information is an estimate based on 2011 tire shipment data, and 2009 vehicle registration data (source: Rubber Association of Canada)










B.C. and Yukon



Alberta and N.W.T.









Nova Scotia



New Brunswick





Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2012 A4

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