April 1, 2023

The first major snowfall of the year, last Friday, meant a busy night for first responders and tow truck operations responding to collisions in Waterloo Region.

Police, fire, and ambulance responded to 135 reported collisions across the region, as the snow that had begun falling Thursday began to pile up and kept coming into Friday. It was a rude awakening for many motorists; dozens of local automotive shops were overwhelmed by the number of calls regarding winter tires.  

The result of the heavy snowfall, that early in November, was a dangerous driving situation for many.

“I had left work at approximately 7 p.m. that night. A 15-minute drive turned into a 45-minute drive,” said Madonna Mannings. “It was one of the scariest driving experiences I have ever had. I saw collision after collision. The roads were horrific and no one had winter tires on yet, including myself, because of how early we still are in November. There were numerous close calls. We weren’t ready. No one was.”

According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, “winter tires play a measurable role in increasing road safety and protecting drivers . . . . The use of winter tires contributes to preventing collisions, injuries, and fatalities, reducing health and hospital emergency costs, reducing the number of police and ambulance emergency responses during winter, lowering the frequency and size of insurance payouts, reducing traffic congestion.”

Last week’s unexpected heavy snowfall caught many Waterloo region drivers by surprise. Photo by Madison Kroner, Spoke News

The association concludes that, “considering the impact of 100-per-cent usage of winter tires across Canada, we would see a significant decline in winter road collisions, thousands would be spared the trauma of injury, and the serious injury and fatality rates would decrease.”

In Quebec, it is mandatory to have winter tires on every vehicle. Since the law came into effect in 2008, the province has dealt with fewer severe and fatal collisions, according to Statistics Canada. In Ontario, insurance companies must provide a two- to five-per-cent discount for drivers with winter tires.

“Winter tires are essential to the safety of yourself and those around you to arriving from Point A to Point B safely,” said Bobby Olkasn, a retired mechanic who had been in the industry for 50 years. “Winter tires help you brake suddenly in both snow and cold-weather driving conditions.”

Winter tires aren’t only meant for snow — they are meant for cold-weather driving conditions. In cold weather, such as minus-30, all-season or regular tires become very hard and don’t stick to the road as well, resulting in a very dangerous situation, according to Olkasn. Winter tires adjust to the temperature, resulting in a much more powerful grip. 

According to the Weather Network, the province is looking at highly variable conditions and temperature drops in the coming week. First responders advise motorists to drive with caution, according to the weather conditions.

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