December 11, 2014 3:29 pm
Updated: December 15, 2014 1:04 pm

Is it time Ontario mandated snow tires?


WATCH: Alan Carter reports that the provincial government will not be making winter tires mandatory.

TORONTO – It’s the first major snowfall of 2014 and by the time the morning rush hour ended, Toronto police had dealt with over 100 accidents, and CAA had received over 1,500 calls for service.

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Ontario drivers aren’t required by the province to equip their cars with winter tires – but is it time they did?  Minister of Transportation Stephen Del Duca says no. He drove through the snow from Vaughan Thursday morning without winter tires and says the decision should be left to drivers.

“So people are aware, they have the opportunity to make in many cases alternative arrangements, driving according to the condition of the road, and they have that opportunity as they’ve always had to make that decision as to what fits within their own means,” he said.

“As Canadians always rise to the occasion, I’m very proud to be a Canadian, and to understand as I’ve understood throughout my driving life, what it means to drive in winter conditions.”

Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris has winter tires and he thinks Del Duca and all Ontarians should have them. But would a Conservative government force it on Ontarians? Don’t count on it.

“I would encourage the minister to get a set of snow tires for his vehicle so he not only arrives where he needs to be on time, but for the safety of him, others on the road and especially his family,” Harris told reporters at Queen’s Park. “There are a lot of reasons why Ontarians should have snow tires on their vehicle, [but] making it mandatory at this time is something that we wouldn’t of course be interested in doing.”

Only Quebec currently requires drivers to buy snow tires. The tires need to be in place from Dec. 15 to March 15.

And they seem to work: analysis done by Quebec’s Ministry of Transport compared accidents in the province between 2003 and 2008 when snow tires weren’t mandatory to the first winter they were, Dec. 15, 2008 to March 15, 2009. The analysis found there were five per cent fewer victims of accidents when winter tires were mandatory.

Winter tires: Do you really need to buy the most expensive brand?

But Brian Patterson, president and CEO of the Ontario Safety League, says Ontario’s simply not ready for mandatory legislation yet.

“I think we lose the opportunity to educate when we immediately regulate,” he said in an interview Thursday.

READ MORE: What to do when waiting for a tow truck

He explained that regulation was possible and effective in Quebec because close to 95 per cent of drivers already had winter tires, so closing the gap was easy. But in Ontario, where far less people have winter tires, Patterson said it’s better if people know why they need them first.

In fact, Patterson suggested more people should take advantage of potential discounts on insurance by installing the tires. CAA, Desjardins and Bel Air Direct all offer a five per cent discount on car insurance if winter tires are installed.

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