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Winter tire deadline approaches: Avoid fines on B.C. highways

Starting Oct. 1, ensure your vehicle is winter-ready.
ziggy1.Getty Images winter tires
In this shot, an all-season tire is on the left; A winter tire is on the right. The gripping ability of the snow tire is evident by its ridged tread pattern. Winter tires are required on the Sea to Sky Highway Oct. 1 through the end of March.

It is that time of year again, folks! Tire shops are busy with the buzz of drivers who waited until the last minute to put on winter tires.

As of Oct. 1, the winter tire law is in effect until April 30 on most highways in British Columbia. 

Winter tires or chains are required on the Sea to Sky Highway from Oct. 1 through March 31. 

Motorists who are not compliant may be turned away and fined.

(See maps of where winter tires are required.)

“Driving for work or pleasure can be dangerous, no matter how much experience you have,” said Trace Acres, program director for Road Safety at Work and spokesperson for the 15th annual Shift Into Winter campaign, in a news release. “Conditions can change quickly and you need to prepare now to help keep yourself and your passengers safe.”

The release states that the number of crashes caused by driving too fast for conditions doubles at this time of year in B.C.

Winter tires are essential because they provide better traction and stopping distances when temperatures drop below 7 C. 

“They can’t help you if you don’t have them on your vehicle before poor weather arrives, though,” Acres said. “Waiting until rain, ice, or snow hits is too late.”

Tires displaying the three-peaked mountain/snowflake symbol and M+S (mud and snow) tires meet the legal requirement as long as they have at least 3.5 mm of tread. Winter tires outperform M+S tires in cold and snowy conditions, the release states. 

Drive for the season

It can be hard to transition from summer-vibe driving to more cautious fall and winter driving, but it is essential to operate your vehicle to the current conditions in order to keep drivers and passengers safe.

Routes like Highway 99 from Vancouver through Whistler and Pemberton see winter conditions early in the season and, being mountain passes, temperatures and weather can change quickly.

“Even if you’re only on the road for a few minutes, you need to prepare for winter driving hazards,” Acres said, adding it is better to cancel or postpone a trip due to poor driving conditions than not make it home.

“Our maintenance contractors will be out in full force again this winter to keep our roads safe. Drivers can better ensure their own safety and the safety of others by preparing for the season by installing winter tires, watching weather forecasts, checking DriveBC, and driving safely — including making space for road maintenance equipment," said the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rob Fleming, in the release.