Changing seasons, changing tires

RCMP can fine you for not having snow tires in designated zones

Despite the lovely weather in the last few days, we all know winter is coming. We could wake up to snow on the ground tomorrow. This is also the time of year when most vehicle owners are switching over to winter tires.

However, the question of whether snow tires are really necessary also arises at this time of year.

We are all familiar with the sign which says you must use winter tires or carry chains beyond a certain point from October 1 through April 30. Anyone departing Kimberley or Cranbrook will run into one of these signs. But are winter tires mandatory in those areas? The answer is a solid yes and no.

According to Lindsay Olsen at ICBC, driving without proper winter tires may not be the wisest or safest decision, but it does not affect a customer’s insurance coverage or eligibility to make a claim.

However, if you are involved in an accident and don’t have winter tires, it may effect how much you pay for insurance in the future.

“If you are in a crash and it is determined that inadequate tires were involved, you could be deemed at fault,” Olsen said. “If it is determined that you are more than 25 per cent at fault, your insurance rates could go up.”

In addition to potential insurance problems, police do have the right to ticket you and make you turn back if you don’t have proper snow tires or chains.

So despite not technically being mandatory, not having snow tires in any of the designated zones around British Columbia, could end up costing you money.

As for what police will accept as a winter tire, Sgt. D. Erichsen of East Kooetenay Traffic Services says RCMP will only accept tires that are designed principally for winter use and are designed to provide adequate traction in snow and mud. Both these clause are represented by the mountain snowflake logo.