Thursday, October 8th15.0°C
Behind The Wheel

Winter tire dilemma

I began driving my own car in the mid-fifties, and always used winter tires on the rear only during winter months. With so many years of driving under my belt, I feel confident in my own ability to manage winter driving with the traction arrangement for rear drive. But what of others? The answer is not straightforward.

Based on my experience as a collision analyst, I can tell you that any vehicle will steer more predictably if the traction at each wheel is the same. Whether you choose to use four all season tires or four winter tires is up to you, but operating with two all season tires on one end and two winter tires on the other can be an invitation to problems.

Mixing tire types will affect both steering and braking. Having different sets of tires on front and rear axles may cause one end of the vehicle to lose traction before the other in a turn. Depending on conditions, this could even be an issue when having four winter tires or four all season tires where the pairs have different tread patterns or traction characteristics.

In terms of braking on slick winter roads, four all season tires may be good, two of each may be better, but the best is still four matched winter tires. Braking distances will also differ if the two winter tires of a mixed set are on the front instead of on the rear.

There are two rules in British Columbia regarding four matched tires on vehicles with four wheels. 

If the front tires are studded, the rear tires must be as well.
Tire types may not be mixed, ie all four must be radial ply or all four must be bias ply.

If you are facing the winter tire dilemma, consider the options but remember that you can’t go wrong with all winter tires.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)

DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.


Scooters & sidewalks

When it comes to motorized scooters/wheelchairs, most people know that they belong on the sidewalk with other pedestrians, not on the roads with other vehicles. Less well known is that they don't need licence plates or insurance if operated by someone with a disability.

Who would have thought, though, that the scooters could cause harm? That they could drive into and kill a pedestrian on the sidewalk? Yet this is what happened in Burnaby two days ago.

These machines are a boon to anybody who has challenges with mobility. They are, however, capable of moving their occupant at significant speeds, often more than twice the walking pace of an adult, and for this reason they are dangerous when misused or used carelessly.

With this safety concern in mind, the provincial government advised the Union of BC Municipalities in 2013 of their intention to develop a coordinated plan for safe operation of motorized scooters, including possible amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act. The provincial coroner also issued recommendations supporting scooter regulation in 2008 after several scooter-riding seniors died in crashes with vehicles.

Currently, driving powered scooters amounts to the same thing as walking. There are no rules about what side of the sidewalk to use, how fast to go, or penalties for misbehaviour except perhaps assault or criminal negligence under the Criminal Code.

Should motorized scooters/wheelchairs be regulated by ICBC? An recent informal poll on the Global News website recorded 236 votes for and 33 votes against the idea.

When you see someone on a scooter, do you see a person with a mobility aid, or a driver in a motor vehicle? 


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

Passed and forgotten

The topic of choice in the DriveSmartBC e-mail box this past week has been about drivers who pass you in the left lane of a multiple lane highway and then immediately change lanes back in front of you. This action leaves less (sometimes much less) than optimum following distance between you and the driver who passed you. It's as if once passed, you are completely forgotten by the other driver.

Since the driver who changed lanes doesn't seem to care suggested one correspondent, she had to keep dropping back to re-establish a reasonable following distance. Of course, once she did that another driver would fill it in again. Travelling this way on lower mainland highways almost became an exercise in going backwards.

I've written about this once before in an article titled Forced Tailgating. The Inland Island Highway is often relatively quiet, yet a driver often passes me in this manner when there were literally kilometers of empty highway in front of both of us, forcing me into a tailgating situation. Out of sight, out of mind I guess.

It should not be this way though. Have you ever used the mantra mirror, signal, shoulder check, change? If you can't see the entire front of the vehicle behind you in your center rearview mirror, you are not far enough ahead to change lanes yet. Having trouble fitting in? Perhaps an adequate signal of your intention will result in the other driver politely making room.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit


Disobeying physics

You may be able to disregard the rules in the Motor Vehicle Act and survive, but flouting the laws of physics when you drive will eventually result in a collision. I spent a decade dealing with concepts like perception - reaction time, coefficients of friction and maximum acceleration when I did a forensic examination of a collision scene. This gave me some insight into what you can and can't do as a driver and the need to never put yourself in a position when your vehicle tried to ask more of the laws of physics than they would allow.

The driver I watched yesterday either had no consideration for the physics involved in driving, had a very high risk tolerance or both. He was following a larger vehicle travelling 90 km/h with what looked like enough room to comfortably parallel park between them had they been standing still. I'm always happy when these drivers roar off into the distance and are no longer near me. I guess my tolerance of risk is not a high one, particularly when the risk is imposed on me by others.

Ninety km/h is 25 meters per second. Accepted perception - reaction time in collision reconstruction is 1.5 seconds. That means this driver travels 37 meters between the time something happens and he first applies the brake. No slowing has occurred yet. If the vehicle in front slows suddenly, a crash is inevitable.

Not a problem, I'll just steer out of the way you say. Remember that perception - reaction time? It means that you will just begin to turn the steering wheel after having travelled that 37 meters. Again, a crash is inevitable.

The vehicle in front doesn't have to slow to be a problem either. It may be blocking your view of what is ahead. If the driver waits until the last minute to move out of the way of a hazard, we're back to that 37 meters or 1.5 seconds again. Are you feeling like a crash test dummy yet? The laws of physics are not forgiving.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

Read more Behind the Wheel articles

About the author...

Tim Schewe has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his traffic enforcement service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

E-mail your questions or concerns: [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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