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The rubber hits the road

“Slip sliding away, slip sliding away

“You know the nearer your destination, the more you

slip sliding away.”

— Paul Simon, 1977

It’s a simple fact of science.

When the temperature drops below 7 C, all-season tires start to lose their elasticity, which results in poorer traction, handling and braking capacity, experts say. But winter tires retain their elasticity at temperatures far below 7 C.

Also, studies show vehicles equipped with various safety features — ABS, electronic stability control and traction control — work much better if the vehicle is equipped with tires suited to the outside temperature.

Even the Manitoba Public Insurance website states: “Installing four winter tires can work wonders! Compared to all-season tires, they stay softer in the cold. That means you can count on more grip, better braking and handling and more control in the worst winter conditions.”

Here at the Sun, as the seasons change we switch over from summer tires to winter tires and the difference is no short of stunning. We would never think of sending staff out on assignment on icy roads in winter — especially to some of the far-flung destinations in Westman we end up in — without winter tires. Some staff say it’s almost like having all-wheel drive at times.

So why isn’t it mandatory that all car owners make the seasonal switch?

We live in a province governed by a policial party that prides itself in bubble-wrapping its citizens with safety legislation — helmet laws for motorcycles (and soon, for young cyclists), seatbelts, childseats, vehicles must be safetied, no use of handheld devices such as cellphones, and some of the toughest anti-drunk driving laws in the known universe.

But when it comes to where the rubber literally hits the road, anything goes.

We think it’s crazy that the Selinger government hasn’t addressed this issue.

We can only imagine it could be out of fear from the NDP friendly environmental lobby, as it would mean doubling the amount of tires produced and, ultimately, thrown away. And low-income special interests would argue it would be one more barrier from the poor being able to afford a car.

A story published in the Brandon Sun yesterday written by our sister paper, the Winnipeg Free Press, said Manitoba drivers lag behind the nation in switching to winter tires, with only 20 per cent of the province’s motorists opting in.

Quebec is the only province with legislation that makes winter tires mandatory. And Manitoba isn’t about to hitch a ride on that legislative avenue.

“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.”

What a ridiculous and ill-informed statement.

It’s not snow and winding roads where drivers benefit from winter tires. They work great on ice and hard-packed snow as well. And as opposed to what Ashton’s apparent “expert” stated, the whole concept behind winter tires is that they stay pliable in those colder temperatures.

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.

But the public insurer — which tracks data on what seems like every aspect of our lives — doesn’t monitor how many vehicles have snow tires.

You know, that might be a good idea.

Having those cold, hard stats might be a lot better than some spin doctor from Ashton’s office talking off the top of her head about what can be life-and-death situations.

Then the government could make some decisions of legislating the use of winter tires based on facts, not emotions.

Unless it really is concerned over the reaction from the aforementioned lobby groups.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 5, 2012

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