Driving in snow and cold weather is inevitable in Alberta.  However, many drivers believe that purchasing winter tires is an unnecessary expense.  It is not uncommon for drivers to assume that all-season tires work perfectly well for year-round driving.  Unfortunately, this is not the case given our harsh winters.


If you live in an area of the country where it snows or temperatures dip below 7 degrees Celsius consistently, a set of winter ties will profoundly improve your safety during the cold winter months. 

Studies have shown that at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius all-season tires stiffen up, resulting in less traction and a deterioration in braking distance and car handling.  This type of reaction to the cold can increase the chance of getting into an accident when driving in colder weather.

The main difference between winter and all-season tires is the rubber compound used to make them.  Winter tires are made of softer rubber that remains flexible when temperatures drop and they are able to maintain a grip on the road.  Winter tires also have deeper treads that allow for better traction on snow and ice.  The wider grooves of winter tires allow water to drain more easily and keep snow from clogging their tread.  Winter tires are also designed with stronger materials to ensure that they make better contact with the road and prevent sliding.

Testing completed by the reputable publication, Consumers Reports, consistently shows the benefits of winter tires in cold climates, such as Alberta.  According to tests, winter tires have been proven to stop 1.8 metres shorter on average than all-season tires when braking on a skating rink.  When testing on moderately-packed snow, winter tires travelled faster than their all-season counterparts.  Winter tires were found to take 19.5 metres to go from 10 to 30 kilometres an hour compared to 26 metres it took for all-season tires.

To summarize, the benefits of winter tires are as follows:

  • They help reduce braking distance on cold, wet, ice and snow-covered roads;
  • They stay flexible in cold temperatures and ensure grip and braking on wet roadways; and
  • They maximize vehicle handling, stability and braking.

All of the benefits of winter tires will increase the safety of driving during the cold, winter months and may decrease the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident.


It is not mandatory to install winter tires in Alberta.  According to Transportation Minister, Ric McIver:

No I don’t believe that we are thinking about making snow tires mandatory, but I will remind Albertans, since you asked, that each of us has a responsibility to make our vehicles safe.  People that choose not to use snow tires also need to choose to drive within the capabilities of their vehicle that may not have snow tires.  Snow tires would actually give vehicles more capability that way.

According to a 2018 survey by the Alberta Motor Association, 68% of its members reported using winter tires and approximately half of its members would support regulations to make winter tires mandatory in Alberta.

In Quebec, winter tires are mandatory between December 1 to March 15, and have been mandatory since 2007.  This criterion applies to taxis, rental vehicles, motorized scooters and motorcycles as well.  A penalty for failing to use winter tires is a fine of between $200 and $300.  During the first two winters following regulations requiring winter tires to be installed on all vehicles, there was a 5% drop in motor vehicle accidents and a 3% drop in the number of deaths and serious injuries.

There are also specific highways in British Columbia that require drivers to install winter tires due to unpredictable weather conditions.  In Manitoba, you can receive a special loan to help purchase and install winter tires and in Ontario the use of winter tires is rewarded with lower vehicle insurance premiums. 


The lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP would like to provide the following tips to assist in purchasing winter tires.

  • Winter tires should be installed on your vehicle when the outside temperature drops consistently below 7.2 degrees Celsius and can be replaced with all-season tires when the temperature consistently rises above 7.2 degrees Celsius.
  • Use four matching winter tires for the best balance of handling and grip.
  • The mountain and snowflake symbol indicates that the tire meets an industry-defined level of snow traction.
  • Proper installation of winter tires is key to your safety.  Trusting a professional to install your winter tires will ensure that they are adjusted to your vehicle. 
  • Be aware that winter tires wear more quickly and their performance in winter will decline with use.  It is best to replace winter tires before they are worn out.
  • Winter tires should be stored in a cool, dry location in black storage bags to prevent the rubber from drying or cracking.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP hope that everyone enjoys a happy, healthy and safe Canadian winter, and know that we are available should anything go wrong.  If you or someone you love has suffered a serious personal injury or been involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injuries this winter, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.