The annual snow tire debate

Insurance agent explains your responsibilities around winter tires.

Does your insurance cover you if you don't have snow tires?

With the first signs of winter definitely in the air, it’s time for the great fall debate —should I purchase snow tires or not? Should I try to get another year out of my tires or should I get new ones?

And then there’s that sign on the way out of town, ‘Use Winter Tires or Carry Chains Beyond This Point’.   A common  question is — does this mean you have to use snow tires? And if you don’t, will your insurance cover you if there’s an accident? The answer to both questions is yes and no.

Snow tires are not mandatory in B.C. according to the RCMP, but you could be ticketed, or sent back home, for not having them  in any of the zones across the province with signs like the one above.

And, if there is an incident and the police decide it was caused by improper tires, you could be ticketed.

The larger issue is insurance. The Bulletin asked local insurance agent David Bellm to provide some clarity on insurance coverage and snow tires.

Winter tires are not mandatory, Bellm says, but ICBC recommends their use in snowy conditions, particularly if you live in an area where you would normally expect a lot of snow.

IF you don’t have snow tires on your car, you are not ineligible to file a claim if you have an accident in one of these zones where the signs say you must use snow tires. Nor will you automatically be assumed at fault for a crash if you don’t have winter tires.

But there’s a catch. Drivers are always responsible for ensuring their vehicles are properly equipped for road conditions, just like ensuring your wipers and headlamps are working well on dark and rainy nights. If you get in a crash where winter tires could have helped, it may be a deciding factor in determining whether or how much you are at-fault.

ICBC advises that winter tires are particularly recommended in areas of B.C. that experience substantial snowfall because they deliver better snow and ice performance. The tread designs on winter tires provide much better traction for driving in winter road conditions. Please visit for more information and tips on buying winter tires and driving in poor conditions.

Winter tires alone are not enough – drivers need to make smart driving decisions and adjust their driving to the road conditions. In winter weather, drivers should allow more time for travelling and most importantly, slow down and keep your distance from other vehicles so you can see more of the road.

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