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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Winter tires must gain traction with drivers

Despite a push over the past few years to raise awareness of their benefits, only about one in five Manitoba vehicle owners bothered to install winter tires last winter.

We’re sure that the numbers aren’t much better this winter.

The numbers for taxicabs are somewhat higher. A former spokesperson for the local taxi industry estimates about half of taxis in Brandon sport winter tires.

“If I were a driver, it would only make sense to have a better grip on the road, if (drivers) don’t do it, it’s a lack of better judgment,” the former spokesperson, Heiko Zinn, told us recently.

Thanks to their specially designed tread patterns, winter tires can provide up to 50 per cent better traction on snow or ice. That could make the difference between a safe stop or an out-of-control slide.

Different rubber formulations in winter tires also help. They are more flexible and perform better at cold temperatures than even the best all-season tires.

We install winter tires on our vehicles here at the Brandon Sun. The difference they make is clear right from the first block one drives.

Although the city says there is no current appetite to mandate the use of snow tires on passenger service vehicles like taxis, we believe it’s something that could be tackled at a slightly higher level of government.

The provincial NDP has shown very little restraint lately in introducing legislation that compels safety, including mandatory bike helmets for children and adolescents.

Although we do consider some of the party’s legislation to be more busywork than anything — banning rides in the back beds of pickup trucks is a solution in search of a problem — the province could certainly play a role in improving the safety of our winter driving simply by making winter tires a requirement for all drivers of passenger vehicles.

That would include taxis.

Yes, winter tires could cost anywhere from $600 to $1,000 for a complete set, with rims. That is expensive.

But so is owning a car. Regular oil changes, gasoline, brake pads — the price of owning a vehicle is perpetual.

Winter tires will simply add one more expense. And it is an upfront expense that could save money in the long run.

Given those possible savings, if there is no stomach for legislation — despite evidence that required winter tires have been a success in Quebec, as well as in several European countries —then perhaps Manitoba Public Insurance could step in.

Surely winter tires would pay dividends to MPI in terms of reduced winter claims. In the absence of legislation, it should be the role of the provincial auto insurer to quantify the benefits of winter tires, and to offer drivers who install them a discount on their auto insurance that is commensurate with the reduced risk.

However, like vaccines, there is a type of herd benefit that comes from reaching a critical mass of winter tires on the road. The benefit increases when other drivers also use them.

After all, what good does it do us to stop perfectly on great winter tires if someone slides into us when they can’t.

So we urge all our readers to install winter tires on their vehicles.

Then you’ll be ready for when this government comes to its senses and makes them compulsory.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 27, 2013

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Despite a push over the past few years to raise awareness of their benefits, only about one in five Manitoba vehicle owners bothered to install winter tires last winter.

We’re sure that the numbers aren’t much better this winter.

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Despite a push over the past few years to raise awareness of their benefits, only about one in five Manitoba vehicle owners bothered to install winter tires last winter.

We’re sure that the numbers aren’t much better this winter.

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