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DriveSmart BC – Snow Tires – Famous Last Words

“My tires aren’t the greatest, there’s really no point living in Vancouver to get, you know, snow tires. But yeah, a little slippery, but just drive slow, you’ll be fine.” These words of wisdom came from a young woman standing on an icy city street with a dog under her arm and a small child in tow. Do you think that this is a reasonable outlook for winter driving in the lower mainland, or anywhere else in B.C. for that matter?

We all practice risk management in our lives and the purchase of a good set of winter tires and other safety equipment for our vehicles is part of this consideration. Too often the part of the equation that tips the balance is our bank account rather than the perception of the possibility of risk when we drive. Worse still, some will realize the risk but drive anyway.

This past October I received a large number of e-mails from people wanting to know if they needed winter tires to drive to a particular destination. Not surprisingly, a lot of these trips were from Vancouver to Whistler. My reply is always that M+S tires may meet legal requirements, but here’s a link to all the winter tire related articles on my web site. I hope that they review them and decide that the increased traction affecting starting, stopping and steering will convince them that M+S tires may not be enough.

Perhaps I was lucky to have started my policing career at Mile 47 of the Alaska Highway. When winter came the police vehicles always had 4 winter tires. The trunk had a shovel, sandbags, flares, a tow cable and emergency blankets. I added a hockey bag of extra cold weather clothing to the reflective vest, flashlight and red cone that I carried every day.

After a bit of experience with collision investigation, seeing what happens to other drivers and having my own troubles on the road, extra equipment has crept into the back of my personal vehicle too. I like to be able to rely on myself to get out of trouble and lend a hand to others when needed.

I always carry a flashlight, reflective vest, flares and reflective triangles, jumper cables, fuses and spare bulbs. For winter travel I add a blanket, shovel, tow chain, tire chains and other odds and ends. It doesn’t cost me much to keep them with me and manage them as the seasons change.

You can choose to add other things to your kit such as the best of your worn windshield wipers. I’ve broken the driver’s side wiper in the cold and was lucky enough that the passenger side wiper was the same length. That is not always the case these days as the passenger side wiper can be too long to use on the driver’s side.

The lady did have one part of the equation right however and that is the slow down part. The best way to get out of trouble is to avoid it.

I have two thoughts to finish up with. The first is for those driving four wheel and all wheel drive vehicles: you may have great “go” but you have the same “stop” as everyone else. The last is that a set of true winter tires is probably about the same cost as your collision insurance deductable.

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