Should winter tires be mandatory in Alberta?

Sneaky black ice: Sometimes your brakes don’t stop where you want if you don’t have the correct tires on your car. This SUV didn’t have winter tires and the front passenger tire blew and ripped off resulting in an accident with another vehicle. (Photo by Ahman Panjwani/The Press)

It has been said that Calgary has two seasons in a year: construction and winter. Calgary is not shy to heavy snowfalls, freezing temperatures and icy roads, yet having winter tires is not mandatory in the province of Alberta.

For Canadians the term “black ice” is a very known and dangerous situation and there are numerous accidents due to black ice during the winter months. Whether it’s the first snow dump of the season or when temperatures start to warm up, the road conditions in Alberta are a danger zone.

British Columbia, which sees way less snow than Alberta, has made it the law that all vehicles must have winter tires or chains from Oct. 1 to April 30.

New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island also have these laws in place as well.

Zia Hussaini, the owner of Zia Automotive, a Calgary-based shop, recommends all drivers buy and use winter tires.

“I would say that it should be [the law] because of the amount of accidents we get and it’s just safe.”

A big concern for some Calgarians is the cost of buying winter tires and having two sets of tires.

“I just don’t have the money to buy two sets of tires for my car,” says motorist Ryan Sandhu.

However, according to Hussaini, it can be prudent to have two sets of tires.

For example, you have a car that you drive every day on all-season tires, which would last you two to three years (on average). Although, if you have a set for the summer months and a set for the winter months, you can get three to four seasons (on average) from these tires. Resulting in not having to purchase tires every two years, but every four—with the added safety in the winter months.

This poses the question, why are there such things as all-season tires and all-weather tires, if they do not perform in all conditions? Well, the short answer is they do, just not as well.

The main differences are the treading and the material of the tire. Winter tires are softer with bigger blocks, designed for catching snow, according to Hussaini.

Another cost benefit of having two sets of tires for your car is the changeover between seasons.

“You pay more every time you change over you pay anywhere from 100 bucks to 250, 200 bucks. Whereas if they were on separate rims, now you’d pay probably about 60 bucks.”

Additionally, having two sets of tires can make it easier for you to change your tires at home, by yourself, also saving money.

Many Calgarians wait until snow is already on the roads before they realize it’s time to change their tires, and if you have two sets, you can do it at home. This method not only saves you money from not having to go into a shop but also is a safer method.

According to Hussaini, the best time to change your tires to winter tires is before the first snowfall.

It’s better to be proactive than reactive, he says.

Spending money upfront on tires, not only saves you money in the long term, but it lessens the risk of accidents and all the bills that come with it if you were to get into a car accident with other vehicles or with a snowbank.

“We have the prime example of a student customer that we have,” said Hussaini. “She spent about 2.500 bucks on fixing mechanical things, and I said, `You need tires.'”

The student declined, Hussani said.

“Two days after, she came back and got tires after she got lucky [with the icy road conditions]. But she almost killed herself. Is it worth it? Your life, jeopardizing your life for like 500 bucks?”

While it is not the law in Alberta to use snow tires in the snowy, winter months, Hussaini recommends using them as it’s not only safer but can also save you and your wallet a headache.

Winter grip: Brand new winter tires with full tread to catch snow and ice. Shaff Hussaini, in the background, removing an old tire on the tire machine, located at Zia Automotive. (Photo by Ahman Panjwani/The Press)
About Ahman Panjwani 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Ahman Panjwani is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.