Lack of winter tires on your taxi or Uber could put your safety at risk

Lack of winter tires on your taxi or Uber could put your safety at risk

After a night of partying, revellers may think they're making the right choice by taking a taxi or Uber, but that could come with its own dangers if the vehicle isn't equipped with winter tires, which are not mandatory in Ottawa. 

Across the Ottawa River, Quebec drivers are required to have winter tires — often referred to as snow tires — between Dec. 15 and March 15, but neither the Ontario government nor the City of Ottawa mandate them, even for vehicles for hire.

In mid-December, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the province has no plans to make winter tires mandatory.

But the risk of being in a collision increases if a driver doesn't have winter tires, because they are proven to provide better grip on snow-covered roads.

'Winter tires will offer you better control'

"Whether it be snow, ice, or black ice for that matter, having winter tires will offer you better control of your vehicle," said Ottawa police spokesperson Const. Marc Soucy. "If it's snowy, it's icy and you don't have winter tires, you're going to need more space and time to react or to have enough space to stop your vehicle."

Carl Nadeau, a winter driving expert with the Michelin tire company, agrees.

"When the temperature approaches zero degrees, or freezing point, the rubber compound of an all-season, or especially a summer tire, gets so hard that it pretty much performs like a hockey puck, so basically you're losing grip," he said.

"And of course, if you add snow, if you add ice to the mix, then it becomes, pretty quickly, a nightmare."

No snow tire bylaw in Ottawa

At least two municipalities in southern Ontario, Toronto and Mississauga, both have requirements for ride-sharing vehicles to have winter tires, which are distinguished by a mountain and snowflake symbol on the side of the tire. Additionally, Toronto requires taxis be equipped with them.

But no such bylaw exists in Ottawa.

Ottawa's Vehicle For Hire bylaw does not require ride-share vehicles or taxicabs to have snow tires, wrote Roger Chapman, director of the city's bylaws and regulations, in an email to CBC News.

No one from Coventry Connections, which manages dispatch services for Capital Taxi, Blue Line Taxi and West-Way Taxi in Ottawa, was available for an interview. There is no information readily available as to whether the company requires drivers to have winter tires or how many have them.

Uber drivers expected to follow local laws

Uber expects drivers follow all local safety laws, wrote Susie Heath, a spokesperson for Uber Canada, in a statement to CBC News, adding that the company reached out to drivers across Canada in mid-November to offer winter driving tips. Those tips include keeping a snow brush or ice scraper in the trunk, along with winter windshield washer fluid, extra mittens and a flashlight.

The tips also remind drivers to leave extra space between cars to provide more reaction time, however they make no mention of winter tires. 

"A lot of drivers will say, 'Yeah, but I'm careful, I leave distance between the cars, I slow down, I do everything.' Yeah, but what if a kid crosses the street in front of your car? Then you're not ready because you don't have the right equipment," Nadeau said.

While he admits not all winter tires are created equal, those classified as all-weather tires still perform better than all-season tires. It can take up to double the distance for vehicles with all-season tires to come to a complete stop versus those with winter tires, he said.