NORTH BAY -- With the first real snow Monday morning in North Bay, drivers around the area say it’s time to get serious about winter tires.

“Living in North Bay and northern Ontario, I use snow tires every year and you never know what the weather’s going to bring,” said resident Gisele Lynch, who booked her tire change Monday. "We know we’re going to get three, four, five feet of snow over the course of the winter ... I want to keep myself safe, but also if I have passengers in the car, I think there’s that extra measure of security knowing that you have your snow tires on.

"Maybe it’s a false sense of security, but I do think we have to protect ourselves and protect others, as well.”

The thin layer of snow melted in North Bay by mid-morning Monday, but it did help remind people of what’s to come.

“This is the time of the year to start getting them on,” said resident Chris Derochie who already had his tires changed. “They reduce breaking, save on insurance, lot less crashes and economical on gas … Bus drivers, other vehicles out there, reducing braking, you know more maneuverability and so forth. So don’t go without them.”

Cutomers booking earlier

Although there hasn’t been a significant snow fall yet, Kal Tire has been busy with appointments making sure that everyone is safe for when the snow is here to stay.

“We see this year that (customers are) booking earlier, they’re making sure that they want to come in and because of that we’ve extended our hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week,’ said manager Kim Lee Hamelin.

“Oct. 15 (is when to) start thinking about putting your winter tires on. After that it’s a gong show, so you get in as fast as you can … Like I said, with the extended hours we’ve been servicing more customers, which helps out. But by Nov. 15 you should have your snows on already.”

Elliot Lake Ontario Provincial Police sent out a media release Oct. 19 reminding people of the benefits of snow tires, reminding drivers that “all-season tires don’t work the same on snow, ice or cold pavement” and that “the stopping distance of a car with winter tires an be up to 30 to 40 per cent shorter than one with all-season tires.”

That's is something that Lee Hamelin agrees with.

“Do people need them? Absolutely they need snow tires on their vehicles, especially in Northern Ontario," he said. "When you get to about 7 C, that rubber compound on three-season tires -- that other people call all-season tires – they’re really good for three seasons. It becomes a little bit harder, the rubber compound, which makes it more slippery in the winter conditions, ice, snow.”

Specially engineered

“Snow tires are designed and engineered for these specific reasons, so I think the biggest aspect with the snow tires is the rubber compound is a lot softer," said Const. Phil Young with the OPP in Elliot Lake. "So what that means is it doesn’t harden up in cold temperatures and it sticks to the road better. It moves water away and it sticks to the road better, thus giving you better traction.”

Although beneficial, snow tires are not a requirement in Ontario, Young added.

“Speaking from the past if we do attend a motor vehicle collision in the winter months and sliding or skidding off the road or those type of events are occurring then yeah, we’ll look whether or not snow tires were used,” he said.

Right now Kal Tire is “booked solid” with extra safety measures put in place this year because of COVID.

“As the come in they have to wear their mask, they have to sign in, we have to make sure we clean the pens,” said Lee Hamelin. “We want to make sure that everybody that shows up here we know who they are and when they came in. So that’s the protocol. We try to keep only six or seven chairs in the showroom. We’ve taken some racks out of the showroom to put a few more chairs, but still social distancing.”

As a result, he said appointments are taking a bit longer this year.

“For the team members going into the car, either bringing the car in or taking the car out, they do have to have clean hands, wear gloves,” said Lee Hamelin. "Also steering covers, seat covers and they have to wash the keys in and out as they give us the keys or take the keys.”

'Speed is No. 1'

While snow tires are beneficial in winter, Young said they are not the only thing for drivers to consider in winter.

“Speed is probably the No. 1,” he said. “Just slow down, give yourself a little bit more time to get to your destination when the roads are in those conditions. Clearing off your windshield is another big one we see. Take that extra five minutes to make sure before you jump into your vehicle, make sure your windshield is clear and that you have a clear view.”

“People get this false sense of confidence when they have all-wheel drive or four wheel drive that a vehicle will stop better," Young added. "That’s false, obviously. All-wheel drive or four-wheel drive helps you with forward acceleration, but stopping does not change unless you have proper snow tires on your vehicle.”