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To gain traction on mandatory winter tires, make buying them in B.C. easier: expert

Last Updated Jan 17, 2020 at 11:46 pm PDT

Tire tracks left in some slush (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

All-season tires lose their grip when the temperature drops below 7 degrees

When Manitoba mandated winter tires, the province's insurer introduced a low-interest financing option

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Making winter tires mandatory could make them easier to find and easier to purchase, says one expert who says B.C. could benefit from adopting an approach like Manitoba’s.

Adrian Scovell with the Automotive Retailers Association says even in regions like Metro Vancouver, where frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls are rare, all-season tires are not actually adequate for all seasons because when the temperature drops below 7 degrees these tires lose their grip.

He says mandating a switch to winter tires that are more effective in snow and muddy slush makes sense but understands people may balk at the added expense.

“There’s a financial reality and impact to doing things like this. I strongly believe it is the right thing to do, but we have to be realistic that people need to be able to afford to do that.”

RELATED: Mandatory winter tires ‘make no sense’ for Lower Mainland: critic

When Manitoba mandated winter tires, the province’s insurer introduced a low-interest financing option. The monthly payment gets tacked onto vehicle insurance bills.

Scovell says he’s been in contact with manufacturers this week who are interested in helping to make the move to mandatory tires easier.

“Should government decide to make winter tires mandatory, industry is willing to step up and work on solutions as well as to help finance” he explains. “We’re very confident that industry would be able to get together a financing package and possibly one of the partners could be ICBC.”

BC’s vehicle insurer wouldn’t have to bare the entire burden, he says. “It’s not like they would have to loan millions of dollars – a financial partner would. But it might be advantageous for people to be able to pay it by way of small change in their premium.”

He says the way to ensure safety is to increase the total number of people who are on the roads with proper tires and points to his own experience this past week when he had to turn back midway through a trip from Langley to Burnaby.

“While my vehicle would have had no problem, there were just too many cars on the road that weren’t equipped,” he explains.

Scovell says even when British Columbians do decide to buy winter tires, they often have trouble finding them because manufacturers prioritize supplying Quebec and Manitoba where the tires are mandatory. He says adding BC to that list of mandatory snow-tire jurisdictions would also put us higher on the supply priority list.