It's winter tire time again

I remember when I was a teenager working in my father's service station. On the day of the first snowfall, our customers would be lined up in the driveway to have their winter tires installed when we arrived to start the day.

We did nothing but install tires and our air compressor didn't get any rest until after we had shut the bay doors and left for home.

It seemed like no one ever put their winter tires on ahead of time.

Today, there is no guessing. On B.C. highways that are marked with signs requiring winter tires the date for having them installed is Oct. 1. Incidentally, that is also the day that studded tires become legal to use on the roads as well.

Before Oct. 1, keep an eye on your thermometer. Once the temperature dips below seven degrees Celsius when you are driving, true winter tires become the better option for traction whether there is snow on the ground or not.

Chances are good that the tires you drive on every day meet the bare minimum requirements to be considered a winter tire for the purposes of these signs.

It's rare to find a tire that is not marked M+S, but don't be lulled into a false sense of security as that M+S marking doesn't mean much when it comes to describing traction capability.

If you want the best traction in heavy snow and ice conditions a true winter tire that is marked with the mountain and snowflake symbol should be your choice.

True winter tires should be installed in sets of four, all with similar tread depth of at least 3.5 mm and correct pressure according to the vehicle's tire placard, which is usually found in the driver's door opening of your vehicle.

Beware that the traction of any tire becomes reduced as it reaches the minimum tread depth. In fact, you may want to consider if the legal minimum tread depth is enough for you.

Speaking of traction, you should also keep in mind that the true winter tire is designed for driving on ice and snow. When you are driving on pavement that is only wet or dry, you handling and braking distances may not be the same as they would be with an M+S all season tire.

Adjust your speed and following distance accordingly.

Will you be renting a car as part of your winter vacation? Beware that these vehicles often do not come with true winter tires installed. You would be wise to inquire and make arrangements with the rental company well ahead of time.

Fortunately, there was never a spring rush at the service station to have winter tires removed. Customers decided on their own when to remove them and some even had us pull the studs out so that they could continue to use their winter tires all year around.

April 1 is the first winter tire free day on posted highways. You may continue to use the winter tires from here until next Oct. 1 if you wish to, but this is not a good choice. Winter tires wear faster in non-winter conditions and should be removed when temperatures are consistently above seven degrees Celsius.

Studded winter tires must be removed by April 30 each year.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/its-winter-tire-time-again


Something to be thankful for

Traffic enforcement is a solitary effort for police outside of the province's municipalities.

I've often wondered just how close I have come to something bad happening in a traffic stop while I was a long way away from the nearest backup. Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, I want to tell a story where something bad did almost happen and I'm very thankful for the "almost."

One sunny afternoon, I was patrolling northbound on highway 97 between Penticton and Summerland. A car with out-of-province licence plates approached me at a speed that was high enough to catch my attention and warrant dealing with the driver.

I turned on my emergency lights, made a U turn and pulled the offender over.

The sole occupant of  the car was a woman who was crying. She told me a long story about being here to look after her mother during the nurses strike and was upset that she was the only source of care currently available.

I told her that we were in somewhat the same situation as my grandmother relied on the same care and my wife was helping her in the meantime.

As the conversation progressed, the lady became calm again and I finally sent her on her way with a warning in hand.

Unless there is a ticket dispute or the driver is stopped again for another violation, this is usually where most traffic stops end for an officer.

A couple of weeks later, I found an envelope in my drawer at work. Inside was a nice thank you card and a small gift. The card referred to my relationship with my grandmother, but contained no other information. I did not connect it to the speeding incident.

The envelope did have a name and return address on it that turned out to belong to a care facility in Summerland. I telephoned, explained about receiving the card and asked if it would be possible to come and thank the woman for sending it to me.

The person on the other end said that I could come any time, but this woman suffered from dementia and would not know what I was talking about.

Clearly, she did not send the card and I asked if she had family locally. Yes, there was a daughter who lived in Summerland.

I contacted the daughter and explained my quest. Oh, she said, you're the one who stopped my sister. She had been feeling suicidal over the situation with her mother and when I stopped her, she was just speeding up to drive out into the lake.

The conversation had changed her mind and she had driven home instead.

The card was from her. Wow!

Every now and again, this memory comes back and I marvel at how sometimes things work out for the best instead of for the worst.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/thanksgiving

Resistance to roundabouts

Change is good, that is unless the town wants to upgrade a busy T intersection with a roundabout rather than installing traffic lights.

This is the situation in Qualicum Beach where the town has announced that it intends to rebuild the intersection of highway 19A (Island Highway West) and Highway 4 (Memorial Avenue) using a roundabout.

This is something that the Qualicum Beach Residents Association (QBRA) opposes.

The collision picture here is a quiet one, relatively speaking. ICBC says that between 2011 and 2015, there were 19 crashes at the intersection and only three of them included injuries.

There is mention by both the town and the QBRA of a pedestrian fatality close by in the recent past, but there is no indication of how close or if the fatality was related to the intersection itself.

The QBRA wants traffic lights installed at this intersection instead of a roundabout and wrote to the ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to register opposition to this portion of the project.

The number of signatures on the petition amounted to about 10 per cent of the town's population, but there was no indication of whether the petition was limited to residents of the town or not.

Will the desires of the QBRA prevail?

The current design guide used by the province indicates on page 139 that:

Roundabouts shall be considered as the first option for intersection designs where four-way stop control or traffic signals are supported by traffic analysis.

If an intersection treatment other than a roundabout is recommended, the project documentation should include a reason why a roundabout solution was not selected for that location. This roundabouts “first” policy supports the province’s Climate Action Program of 2007.

Why are roundabouts considered to be the best option? They have a high potential for safety:

  • Lower speeds - Situation changes slowly
  • Very forgiving environment
  • More time to make the right response
  • Judging gaps is easy and mistakes are not lethal
  • No demand to accurately judge closing speeds of fast traffic
  • Low energy crashes: low closing speeds, low angle, low impact
  • No wide visual scans needed
  • Reduced need to look over one’s shoulder
  • Uncomplicated situations; simple decision-making

The most commonly raised concerns involve pedestrians and cyclists.

Of the two, the pedestrian receives more benefits. They now only have to cross one lane at a time with a refuge in the splitter island half way across. Marked crosswalks are set away from the circle. This means that pedestrians are not crossing directly in front of drivers busy looking for a gap in traffic.

Cyclists trade a slightly increased collision rate for conditions that make those collisions much less likely to result in significant injury or death.

To summarize, roundabouts have been shown to reduce total crashes by 39 per cent. serious crashes by 76 per cent and fatal or incapacitating injuries by 89 per cent when compared to intersections with stop signs or traffic lights.

Does this sound like something we should oppose?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/intersections/resistance-roundabouts


Pet peeves ahead!

Everyone has a pet peeve related to driving, right?

I know what mine are, but I was curious about what others might say if I asked, so I did.

My faithful weekly newsletter readers responded without hesitation and I want to share their thoughts with you.

The top complaint involved space margins.

Dislike of drivers who follow too closely was equalled by drivers who move in too soon after passing.

Drivers who try to bulldoze others out of the way received special mention along with those who force other drivers to make a gap for them to facilitate a lane change.

Anticipation, planning and preparing ahead of time will prevent you from finding yourself in the wrong lane at the wrong time.

A close second goes to drivers who do not signal or who do not give an adequate signal.

A defensive driver always signals, even when they think that no other traffic is around.

A variation on this would have pedestrians point their way to safety. Signalling drivers that you wish to cross by pointing along the crosswalk may increase the possibility that they will yield.

Third place is speed relate

If you grouped all the related behaviours together, this peeve should probably top the list. Between simply travelling over the speed limit and being slower traffic that failed to keep right, there were enough votes to come first.

Special mention was made of drivers who accelerate to the speed limit at the start of a passing lane and then slow back down again after it ends along with inappropriate speed limits, either too high or too low.

It's now a toss up between noisy exhaust and failing to come to a full stop in the proper place.

Not stopping properly is one of the behaviours I discuss in Don't Let This Become Your Default Setting. Bad habits can be both dangerous and hard to break.

Cyclists who don't follow any traffic rules received a vote.

It will be interesting to see how the Motor Vehicle Act will be amended to reflect modern cycling considerations. This is currently has enthusiastic support from municipalities and health authorities are also lending support.

We must not forget daytime running lights.

The common problems here are not being operational or not having lights on the rear of the vehicle when they are needed.

In a way, I've saved what might be the best observation for last.

One commercial driver expressed the thought that many drivers fail to take the time to analyze before acting. If you are aware of what is going on around you as you drive, you may never find yourself in an unsafe situation.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/behaviour/pet-peeves-ahead

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his 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 Castanet.net.

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

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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