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Winter Tires Laws Across Canada

Why Your Summer Tires Might NOT Be LEGAL This Winter

Winter is always fast approaching in Canada and driving in extreme winters is a big part of living here. We get +40℃ upwards in summers and -40℃ or worse in winters! You’d never think of getting wheel grip with tire chains, frozen wiper fluids, ice smashing scrapers, or freezing brake lines in a hot summer. But in the winter these can turn into real concerns. Having control over the vehicle is the biggest issue in winter with snow, ice, and slush-covered roads. With over 80℃ temperature variations each year, it is difficult to get the same tires working equally well at each extreme.

Table Of Contents

1. Winter Tire Laws Across All Canadian Provinces

Each province and territory in Canada is responsible for deciding whether to require the use of winter tires and so legislation regarding the winter tire varies across provinces. All provinces recommend the use of winter tires, and some even have legislation that makes winter tires mandatory. 

1.1. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Québec?

In Québec, the use of winter tires is mandatory province-wide during the winter driving season from the 1st of December until March 15. All four tires must be equipped with winter tires that satisfy the established standards and are in good condition and applies to all motorized road vehicles registered in Québec. Although they are not mandatory before December 1st, it is recommended to install them as the effects of winter can start as early as October. The minimum tread depth allowed is 1.6 mm but the recommended depth is 3.5 mm. Studded winter tires are allowed for use between 15th October and 1st May. In Quebec, only 3PMSF (3-peaked mountain snowflake pictograph) marked tires are recognized as winter tires. M+S (Mud + Snow) tires do not meet regulations and must be replaced with 3PMSF winter tires. 

Fine: Failing to adhere to winter tire installation can result in a fine of $200 to $300 plus costs.

Although winter tires are mandatory on all passenger cars in Québec, a few exceptions exist. If you are travelling to Québec and have a temporary registration certificate then you are exempted from the winter tire law for a period of 7 days since the issuance of the certificate. If you recently bought a car from a dealer then you are exempted from winter tire law for the first 7 days. Similarly, the last 7 days before the end of a 12 month or longer lease enables winter tire exemption.

Visit this site for more on Québec winter tire regulations.

1.2. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In British Columbia?

BC employs regulations according to specific regions but most highways and mountain pass users need to install winter tires between October 1 to April 30 (Use this link for Designated Winter Tire & Chain Routes in British Columbia). For select highways not located through mountain passes and/or high snowfall areas, tire and chain requirements end March 31. Roadside signs are posted on highways where they require the use of tires and chains. Winter tires must be installed on all four wheels with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm and must follow the standardized requirements. Studded tires can also be used within the aforementioned period only and should not protrude more than 2 mm from the tread or traction surface of the tire. In BC, both 3PMSF and M+S tires are considered winter tires and can be used on designated routes. 

Fine: In BC Winter tire defaulters can face fines varying from $121 to $598 depending on the type of vehicle and tire/chain requirements.

Visit this site for more on British Columbia winter tire regulations.

1.3. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Ontario?

Winter tires are not mandatory in Ontario but recommended to be used between  October 1 and April 30. Studded tires are only allowed in northern Ontario. The tires need to have a minimum tread depth of 1.5 mm. Insurance companies need to offer special benefits for winter tires users in Ontario according to law. You may refer to this pdf for a helpful guide on winter driving in Ontario

It is interesting to note that only Northern Ontario residents (north of Parry Sound and Nipissing districts) are allowed to use studded tires from September 1st to May 31st whereas Southern Ontario residents are prohibited. A $1,000 fine can be handed out for using studded tires in Southern Ontario. However, you can use studded tires in Southern Ontario if you are visiting from a different province or are a Northern Ontario resident. Non-Ontario residents can utilize studded tires within Ontario for no more than 30 days.

Refer here to learn more about Ontario winter tire regulations.

1.4. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Manitoba?

Winter tires are not mandatory in Manitoba. However, they are recommended to be used and the Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) provides low-interest financing under the Winter Tire Program of up to $2000. This financing can be used by eligible Manitobans for the purchase of qualifying winter tires, and associated costs, from participating retailers. By law, the minimum required tire tread depth is 1.6 mm, but the recommended depth is 4.8 mm as it offers superior performance. Studded tires may be used within October 1st to April 30th.

Refer to this site for more information on winter driving in Manitoba.

1.5. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In New Brunswick?

There are no laws regarding the use of winter tires in New Brunswick. Studded tires can be installed from October 15th to May 1st. The use of winter tires is mandatory only on school buses. The minimum allowed tread depth is 1.6 mm.

1.6. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Nova Scotia?

There is no legislation requiring the use of winter tires in Nova Scotia. Studded tires can be used between 15th October to 31st May. The studs must not protrude more than 3 mm (0.12 inches) from the tread or traction surface of the tire and not exceed 127 mm (0.5 inches) in diameter. The tread depth must also be more than 3 mm.

1.7. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Newfoundland And Labrador?

These Canadian provinces do not hold the use of winter tires mandatory. Although studded tires can be used between 1st November and May 31st and winter tires are highly encouraged within this period. Also, an insurance discount can be availed with the use of winter tires in NL. The minimum allowed tread depth is 1.5 mm

It is mandatory to use tire chains on the drive wheel of the vehicle - front-wheel drive will have front wheel mounted tire chains and vice versa when there is snow or ice on the surface of the highway. The minister can prohibit motorists from driving on highways without tire chains or winter tires or both. Non-compliance can result in a $400 fine.

1.8. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Prince Edward Island?

Winter tires and studded tires can be used in Prince Edward Island from October 1st to May 31st. The stud should not exceed 3.2 mm in protuberance beyond the tread surface of a tire and must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm. No laws mandate the use of winter tires in PIE.

Visit this site for more info on PIE winter driving.

1.9. Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Yukon, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories, And Nunavut?

None of these provinces and territories have specific laws regarding the mandatory use of winter tires. However, these regions face extremely harsh winter conditions and the government recommends using winter tires due to their benefits over all-season and other tires. Studded tires and chains can also be employed throughout the winter months. All of these provinces do not have a scheduled time frame for use of studded or winter tires. Yukon has the highest minimum tread depth allowance at 4 mm. Followed by BC with 3.5 mm and Alberta with 3.2 mm. Saskatchewan also has a mandated minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm

Refer the corresponding site for more information on winter driving in each region: Yukon, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories.

2. Tread Depth And Studded Tires

The following table shows the minimum tread depth allowed in each province as per the law and also shows the time period within which studded tires are legal along with the maximum allowed protuberance of the stud. The stud protuberance is measured from the tread or traction surface of the tire. Note that using studded tires outside of the mentioned dates can result in a fine in the corresponding province. 

Canadian Provincial Winter Tire Legal Requirements*

Province
Minimum Tire Tread Depth
Maximum Stud Protuberance (on Studded Tires) 
Studded Tire Period of Use
Quebec
1.6 mm
No rule
October 15 to May 1
British Columbia
3.5 mm
2 mm
October 1 to April 30
Ontario
1.5 mm
No rule
September 1 to May 31**
Manitoba
1.6 mm
No rule
October 1 to April 30
Alberta
3.2 mm
No rule
No rule
New Brunswick
1.6 mm
No rule
October 15 to May 1
Nova Scotia
3 mm
3 mm
October 15 to  May 31
Prince Edward Island
1.6 mm
3.2 mm
October 1 to  May 31
Newfoundland & Labrador
1.5 mm
No rule
November 1 to April 30
Saskatchewan
1.6 mm
No rule
No rule
Yukon
4 mm
No rule
No rule
Northwest Territories
No rule
No rule
No rule
Nunavut
No rule
No rule
No rule

*The table data only applies to passenger vehicles and not commercial vehicles and heavy-duty trucks.

**only Northern Ontario residents are allowed studded tires within the specified period

3. Other Driving Laws That May Impact Your Winter Drive

In Québec, under the Highway Safety Act, drivers must slow down when the visibility is reduced due to fog, darkness, snow or rain and also when the road is slippery or unclear. It is mandatory to adapt driving to weather and road conditions in winter or it can result in a $60 fine and 2 demerit points. Driving fast on bad road conditions like when roads are snowy or slippery or when you can't see due to fog or snow could get you a $167 fine and 3 demerit points in British Columbia – even if you're driving at or below the speed limit. In Ontario, you can be charged with careless driving for driving at the speed limit on severely bad road conditions. In Alberta, you are legally required to drive according to road conditions and can get a ticket if you don’t. 

Always slow down when the conditions aren’t ideal. Highway speed limits are set according to ideal road conditions. If the road conditions are bad then it is best to slow down. Drive at 70 km/h or below on a 100 km/h road during winter simply because its safer. Do not use cruise control during winter conditions.

The tread depth of the tire is important and having low tread depth can compromise safety as the wheel doesn't have enough rubber to grip the ground properly. If you are involved in an accident and your tread depth is found lower than the allowed depth, then it can be taken as an aggravating factor. 

The tire inflation pressure must be regularly checked and restored to manufacturer-recommended pressures. Under-inflated and over-inflated tires can reduce vehicle handling, increase fuel consumption and also wear out the tire more quickly. The tire’s pressure is directly related to the temperature outside and a drop in 10℉ (4℃ - 6℃) can result in a 1-2 psi drop in tire pressure. Make sure to check your tire pressure on each wheel before driving and monitor the TPMS.


4. What Are The Insurance Implications Of Winter Tire Laws?

Driving without winter tires will not void insurance according to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) that stated in a release - “Driving without winter tires will not void your insurance if you have a claim. It also won’t mean you’re automatically at fault in a crash. However, if you get in a crash where winter tires could have helped, not having them may affect whether – or how much – you are at fault.”

Getting into an accident due to bad weather during winter may seem like the weather’s fault but according to the insurer and law, the fault lies with the driver. It is always the responsibility of the driver to control the vehicle no matter the road conditions. During inclement weather, drivers are supposed to take extra measures and precautions to ensure safe journeys no matter the road and weather conditions. Although each incident is unique with its own set of circumstances, it is ultimately the driver that has control over the vehicle and may be deemed as the responsible party. 

In Ontario, insurance companies rely on the Fault Determination Rules to determine the party at fault. In other provinces, insurance companies may use their own fault determination system. Usually, bad weather conditions will not rid the driver of claims. However, it can reduce legal charges or a 50-50 fault may be issued for both drivers involved in the accident. The best way to avoid higher insurance claims is to prepare for bad weather conditions beforehand and equip the vehicle with winter tires and address any other issues. 

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