This Saturday I likely would have been first on scene of a head-on collision had I not taken a nice warm shower before heading out. It had been raining, but not heavily and certainly nothing out of the ordinary. The road has a 50 km/h limit, has two 90-degree turns within 200 m or so, and is about 500 m from a school zone. Silver Civic coupe was northbound at the second 90-degree turn to the east, took it too fast, lost control, and took out a beige Corolla. Civic ended up in westbound/southbound lanes and the Corolla was in a ditch. Civic driver was on the ground being worked on by paramedics, and the road was closed off for half an hour. Drivers regularly do 70 km/h on this road and misjudge the turns, though most drivers cut into the paved shoulder to negotiate the turn instead of going into oncoming lanes.
My "winter preparedness kit" includes my regular toolbox with about $5000 worth of sockets and other automotive tools, an extendable brush that works well as a shovel/rake, a three-foot length of 4x4 wood for wheel chocking or any needed leverage, a litre of 0W-30 oil, welding gloves (can't beat those for insulation and ruggedness), a "Genuine Ford" blanket, three green glow sticks, three red glow sticks, a reflective vest, first aid kit, Haynes manual, an axe, a booster pack, two 20-foot recovery straps (not tow straps), four D-shackles, a 3xAAA headlamp, a booster pack-mounted light, and a shake-light. The headlamp can put out 5 lumens for 160 hours using the LEDs, or ~30 lumens for 3 hours with the incandescent bulb. The 20-lumen booster pack light can go for quite a while on the big lead-acid battery. I also carry either a 130-lumen incan flashlight (normal light), or a 450-lumen incan flashlight with a 10-lumen LED tailcap (patrol light) on my person, along with a pair of mechanic's gloves for detailed work and a Leatherman knife. If I know I will be in deep snow I will also grab my case of quick-release chains. I dare winter to try and take me down!
I think you guys make a good point. Given that the benefit of studs seems to be pretty slight, maybe they're not worth getting, especially if getting my car towed depending on the Man's whim is a possibility. I can just see myself in a freezing cold garage with a pair of pliers, making the tires ready for the inspection at the police station after getting a ticket.
The 10 metre plus stopping distance improvement on ice is awfully attractive, though. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I'd be aware (barring black ice) if the road was a skating rink and would be driving accordingly (or, preferably, not be driving as hwybear points out).
The tires I'm getting are Gislaved Nordfrost 5s, and they are quite well spoken of even without the studs that they are designed to accept. My previous winter tires have always been Artic Alpin or X-Ice, but the price of Michelins is getting to be a bit much these days.
Thanks for the emergency kit inventory suggestions; I've made up a list of the stuff I don't have and will be stocking up.
I had one incident when the road iced over on a hill. At the bottom was a semi and a Barrie city bus, both slightly sideways so I knew I was in some trouble going down the hill. Light at the bottom turned red, needed to stop! I managed to control my speed by bumping my passenger side wheel against the snowbank. You can't do it too hard though, or the rear end will swing around and you'll never recover in time.
Aside from that, I don't remember any other time where the road was really just ice, even when I lived and drove in Toronto. I'm not familiar with the "exotic" winter tires like Gislaved or Nokian, so don't really know their technology. I think the Blizzaks use tiny bubbles injected in the moulding process to act as suction cups, the trade-off being that the rubber becomes too weak to make the entire tire out of it. Blizzaks become a "normal" winter tire after 50% wear. I know the new X-Ice Xi2 have special siping that will pull water from the surface of ice, and dry ice actually has a decent coefficient of friction. My Nordics use the older technology of silica grit embedded in the rubber, which acts like throwing sand or kitty litter on the ground. If you want to focus on ice and snow performance, I would stick with a Q-rated tire. Those are the no-compromise, dedicated winter tires. Gislaved and Nokian do have great reputations, maybe even greater than Bridgestone and Michelin's winter tires. They just lack the dealer network to become mainstream.
So I ended up studding my tires and got a ticket for it at a RIDE check. In preparing my defence, I noticed that the law has a very narrow, scientific definition of what a stud is. In particular, it defines a stud as something that has a Moh's hardness measurement of greater than 7. I knew the Crown did not have any laboratory evidence of such and mentioned this to the crown in a pretrial conversation. She withdrew the charge rather than fight me on that point.
So, it hasn't been tested in court, but it appears that unless the police are prepared to take a sample and do a $150 lab test every time they write one of these tickets, these cases aren't going to go very far.
I also considered asking the court to declare the law to be of no force and effect to the extent that it prevents folks from obtaining security of the person in the winter weather that prevails in the Ottawa valley. Southern Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that prevents people from protecting themselves with this simple, economical, effective technology.
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