Winter driving and other fun things

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Well, we’ve had our first real taste of winter and we survived. But there are some things to learn from that first snofall to make sure we don’t do the same dumb things the second and third and fourth (you get the idea) time around.

Many people, I’m happy to say, do have their winter tires on their vehicle but there are those who insist they don’t need them and most of the time they are the problem. Mind you, not all the time, but most of the time.

Talkback had an opportunity to speak to the Communications Manager of the Rubber Association of Canada, Gilles Paquette, recently. I know many are already thinking that, of course the Rubber Association of Canada is going to “hustle” winter tires to keep their members happy, but think about it - whether or not you put winter tires on, the association is still ahead because no matter what kind of tires you have on your vehicle, from big winters to the old favourite “baldinos,” they’re made of rubber so it makes sense to listen to what they have to say.

Paquette says the good news is, in recent years, more and more motorists have chosen to invest in winter tires. Paquette says with today’s technology, there are significant advantages to having winter tires not just on snow or ice but on cold, dry surfaces as well. He says rubber stiffens as temperatures get colder and that reduces traction. However, modern winter tire rubber compounds tend to keep their elasticity even at temperatures as cold as -30˚ and lower. Obviously it would result in better traction and performance during all winter road conditions, compared to so-called all-season tires and the ordinary summer tires.

That’s not to say all-season tires don’t work. The association is suggesting that specific winter tires just work better.

I certainly can attest to that, having just bought winter tires in the past two years. I too, used all-season tires up to that point. I found the difference to be night and day as far as traction and operation is concerned.

At this point, I realize this sounds like a commercial. It is not. It’s just an opportunity to get you thinking about your options before the next winter storm hits. An opportunity to learn from the first one.

Hey, it’s your call but here are some questions to ask yourself. Do I live where cold temperatures are common? Do I drive on icy or snowy roads? At what time of the day or night do I drive in the winter? Do I drive the same speed regardless of the temperature?

These are some of the questions the association suggests you consider and if you answered “yes” to any of them, then perhaps you’re due for some winter tires.

Having said all this, the next controversy is two winter tires or four winter tires? To my mind, it’s a no-brainer. Four winter tires is an absolute must especially with today’s type of vehicles. (This still sounds like a commercial).

Alright, let’s get away from the commercial part. The choice is yours. Now, let’s talk about the drivers of winter.

If you should get four winter tires, you are not invincible. If you should happen to own one of those “good ‘ol boys” jacked up pick-up trucks with the big tires, you are not invincible. Rude? Perhaps, but not invincible.

Some people seem to think that once they get winter tires they can drive like they always do and the tire fairies will protect them from harm. Those tires work only if you work at driving defensively during less than ideal driving conditions. Remember those speed limit signs that are posted on our roadways is the maximum speed allowed under absolutely perfect, pristine conditions.

Snow, slush, and ice on the road is hardly “perfect pristine.”

The same holds true for the “good ‘ol boys.” Screaming up behind a vehicle that is going slower than you wish to go just because you feel you have the weight and the wheels for unbridled safe operation of your toy is a pipe dream. A little winter tailgating is going to bite you in the butt one day and no souped up toy or tires are going to save you.

Bottom line is we all have to drive a little differently in the winter particularly when a storm hits. Most of us know that but you have to keep pounding it to the heads of a select few. They just don’t realize they’re the problem—not the winter conditions.

Okay, cue the next storm.

I’m John Divinski.

Organizations: Rubber Association of Canada

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