Years ago, buckle-up campaigns helped get motorists in the habit of wearing seat belts every time they’re in a vehicle (I can’t imagine not wearing one now, but apparently it was common place not to at one point, wow!) Most recently we’ve seen a huge push to get drivers to put down their (*#$!^) cell phone behind the wheel, something that I’ve spoken about many times and a huge pet peeve of mine. Hopefully, dropping your phone in your purse or console will be as common-place as clicking a seat belt thanks to the campaign.
Now, Kal Tire has launched a new campaign to alert drivers on when they should be making the switch to winter tires. Do you have a set predictor of when you do it? After the first snowfall like so many do? Or is it a date on the calendar? Both those methods are not the best plan, it turns out.
The 7 Degree Switch campaign hopes to get drivers to heed the message of Canadian pro race car driver Amber Balcaen and switch to winter tires at +7C—the point at which all-season tires begin to lose traction. Amber recently visited the Kal Tire location here in Regina, and we had a chat about why winter tires are essential for driving in Canada.
“As a professional driver, I know my experience can only get me so far, especially in rough and unpredictable winter conditions off the track. It’s my tires that let my vehicle stick to the road and brake in time,” says Amber Balcaen. In 2016, she became the first Canadian woman to win a NASCAR- sanctioned race in the US and has since won another in 2017. She is a spokesperson for Kal Tire’s ‘7 Degree Switch’ campaign, which likens the dangers of driving on all-season tires in winter conditions to driving while texting or without wearing a seat belt. “Having grown up in Winnipeg and experienced the worst of Canadian winters, I know what happens when you’ve got the wrong tires in winter, so we’re saying, ‘Don’t be that guy!’”
While those in the tire industry have long understood all-seasons can’t perform well below +7C, which is why Kal Tire has named them 3-season tires, Kal Tire is hoping that fact becomes common knowledge for drivers. To provide proof, Kal Tire has invested in extensive independent tire testing to evaluate the performance of both new and worn 3-season, all-weather and winter tires in Canadian winter conditions. The evidence has been both surprising and significant: from 50 km/h, passenger winter tires stopped over 6 metres shorter on loose snow than 3-season tires and nearly 9 m shorter on icy conditions at 30 km/h.
Ask yourself if 6 metres and 9 metres makes a difference in your child’s school zone, and it’s a no-brainer that winter tires are essential for responsible winter driving.
The data above shows the months from October to April where the temperature didn’t hit 7 degrees Celcius here in Regina, which is a very clear picture on when we should really be switching to winter tires. That means that if you haven’t switched to winter tires yet here in October, you’re already not reaping the benefits of having them on your vehicle.
Three-season tires (let’s stop calling them all-season tires, shall we?) contain less natural rubber, so they stiffen once temperatures are consistently below +7C. Winter tires, on the other hand, stay flexible for optimal grip and braking at temperatures below +7C, and all-weather tires, which bear the severe service winter tire symbol, are made with a special compound to stay flexible above and below +7C, giving drivers in mild and urban regions a safe year-round alternative. According to Transport Canada, “At temperatures below +7C, all-season and summer tires begin to lose elasticity, resulting in reduced traction.”
I shared with Amber and the team at Kal Tire that, since I have become a mom, winter tires have been a necessity on my vehicles. Like all other safety aspects – seat belts, car seats, ensuring our vehicles come with all the safety features we want, winter tires is part of that formula. We simply will not go without.
What about you? Are winter tires a must for your family or have you been reluctant to get them, perhaps thinking that “all season” tires meant you were covered? Does the new campaign from Kal Tire, the 7 Degree Switch, make you consider either putting on our winter tires earlier OR for some of you, considering winter tires for the first time?