Since 2008, cars in Québec are required to be equipped with tires specifically designed for winter driving from December 15th through to March 15th. If you don't install four winter tires on your vehicle and get caught the fines are hefty, ranging from $200 to $300; as a case in point the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal posted that drivers can be issued a ticket for $277 for not driving with winter tires in Montreal.

What's driving the Quebec winter tire law?

The reason for the law, quite simply, is to actively improve road safety. In short, drivers operating vehicles with all-season tires are more likely to be involved in an accident or lose control of the vehicle during the winter months.

According to Transports Québec, "...38% of the accidents that occur during the winter involve at least one vehicle that is equipped with all-season tires. These vehicles are strongly overrepresented in such accidents, as it is estimated that before 2008, 90% of passenger vehicles were driven with winter tires. In addition, the proportion of the occurrence of loss of control is even higher when the vehicles involved are equipped with all-season tires."

Who is affected by the Quebec winter tire law?

It's estimated that 4.5 million vehicles are affected by the law annually as all passenger vehicles, taxis and rental cars registered in Québec must be equipped with winter tires. Visitors who drive to Québec from out-of-country or out-of-province are not affected by Québec's winter tire law as their vehicle would be registered and plated by their home jurisdiction. The law only applies to passenger vehicles registered (or rented) in Québec.

A winter tire by any other name

Even though an advertisement may claim that the tires are suitable for winter driving, if they are not marked with a specific designation they are not considered a winter tire under Québec's winter tire law.

Tires marked with the following mountain snowflake icon are recognized as acceptable winter tires:

Winter tire pictogram

Alternately, tires inscribed with one of the following are also acceptable, but only until December 15th, 2014, at which time only tires with the mountain snowflake icon are recognized:

  • Alaska
  • Arctic
  • A/T or AT
  • AT/S or AT-S
  • Blizzard
  • Cresta
  • Ice
  • INSA T1, INSA T2, or INSA TT770
  • LT
  • Nordic
  • Snow (but not mud and snow)
  • Stud, Studdable, Studded, or Studless
  • TS
  • Ultra grip
  • Ultratraction
  • Winter

Winter tire tips

Get the most out of your winter tires, with the following tips:
  • Don't think of them as winter tires, think of them as cold weather tires. Colder temperatures decrease the elasticity of the rubber, resulting in reduced traction. A good rule of thumb is to put your cold weather tires on when the temperature is consistently 7° Celsius or colder.
  • Install four winter tires; do not mix-and-match with your summer or all-seasons. Not only will you still get a ticket (the law requires you to install 4 approved winter tires) but by mixing-and-matching your tires you'll be losing stability, traction and control.

Additional information about Québec's winter tire law can be found at Transports Québec and the Société de l'assurance automobile Québec, and if you're looking for more details about winter tires in general, visit Transport Canada or The Rubber Association of Canada (yes, this does actually exist.)

What's it all mean?

In a nutshell, install four winter tires before the deadline each year to stay safe and avoid tickets. While your safety is the priority, a ticket for not having your winter tires installed could hit you twice in the wallet: first from the fine itself, and second because it may also affect your auto insurance.

Looking for more way to get ready for winter? Don't get caught unprepared.

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