New Brunswick

Why winter tires keep drivers safer

Don’t be fooled or turned into a procrastinator by the unseasonably warm temperatures this week. Winter is on its way, and when snow falls on New Brunswick, you’ll need winter tires.

All-season tires don't stick to the road as well in cold temperatures

Michael Edwards, the director of strategic initiatives and exhibits at Science East, says the routine of switching to winter tires does help drivers. (iStock)

Don't be fooled or turned into a procrastinator by the unseasonably warm temperatures this week. Winter is on its way, and when snow falls on New Brunswick roads, you'll need winter tires.

The annual ritual of changing tires to welcome the snow and cold does make drivers safer, says Michael Edwards, the director of strategic initiatives and exhibits at Science East.

And winter tires are "definitely better" than all-season tires, he said.

"They do offer an advantage, and I think most people that use them feel that they do," Edwards said.

The argument for winter tires is all about the science: low temperatures can take a dangerous toll on all-season tires. They become harder.

"Because Canada is, I think, technically, what scientists call cold in the winter, then that means that your all-season tires, the main material in those, it actually gets much harder at a lower temperature," said Edwards.

"When they do that, they don't have the responsiveness to grip onto the asphalt."

Edwards points to hockey pucks as proof of this principle. Hockey pucks are deliberately kept cold before games, making them harder and faster on the ice. This is the opposite result you want with tires.

Michael Edwards, Science East's director of strategic initiatives, says all-season tires get too hard in the winter to be effective on the road. (Jordan Gill/CBC)
The build of the tire is also important.

"The pattern on the tire is there to provide more adhesion to the surface as well," said Edwards.

The zigzagging cuts in the tire, called sipes, help with the grip. The weight and speed of the car creates friction on ice and snow, which melts some of it, creating water.

"What these sipes do is they help funnel the water away from the surface, so the tire is able to adhere to [the road] and not onto water," Edwards said.

While winter tires are advised, Edwards said for most people studded tires are unnecessary.

"It's a really unsubtle sledgehammer-to-smash-a-walnut kind of approach," said Edwards.

With files from Shift

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