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Quebec’s mandatory winter tire law comes into effect on Monday. If you’re driving with all-season or summer tires, you’ll officially be breaking the law in less than a week. And I, for one, am sick of all the whining and complaining about this law.

On principle, I usually oppose excess government regulation, especially when there’s scant evidence that it is warranted (e.g. the handheld cell phone ban, which has popular but virtually no evidentiary support). But, unlike that law, I happen to think that this one is very sensible.

Look, people, it’s quite simple. In Quebec, we have winter. Winter means lots of snow. And ice. And cold. If you’re driving in that weather without proper winter tires, you’re not only endangering yourself, you’re endangering everyone else on the road. The rubber compound in winter tires is designed for the cold temperatures, and the tread provides more traction on snow and ice. Last winter, 10% of cars on the road didn’t have winter tires, but they accounted for 38% of accidents. Driving without winter tires in winter isn’t safe. Period.

There are provisions made for people who store their cars or go south for the winter. There was plenty of warning to get equipped. The main difficulty will be in enforcement, and police will probably grapple with that one for a while. But aside from that, it’s a good law, designed to protect drivers and passengers and prevent deaths.

Most of the whining seems to be about the cost of winter tires. But owning and operating a vehicle costs money. Even if you own your car free and clear and are no longer making car payments, there’s insurance, gas, parking, maintenance, all to the tune of thousands of dollars a year. Winter tires will cost you several hundred dollars, true, but you can amortize that cost over several seasons. Plus, you’ll extend the life of your summer tires by only using them for half the year.

Bottom line: The cost of winter tires is a fraction of the total cost of car ownership. If you can’t afford the tires, you shouldn’t be driving a car, so quit whining and get a bus pass. You’ll save thousands and help the environment, too. Otherwise, invest in a good set of winter tires. For your sake, and for everyone else’s.

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Quebec’s transport minister is going to introduce a bill to, among other things, ban cellphone use on highways.

This is the way the tide has been moving for a while now, all over the world. So I can’t say I’m too surprised. I even understand the arguments for it. Distracted drivers are dangerous, and cell phone use is distracting, no doubt.

But I still strongly disagree with the ban, for several reasons:

  • Plenty of other distractions exist aside from cell phones. Are we also going to ban fumbling with the radio dial, sipping morning coffee, talking to passengers, dealing with crying children in the backseat, driving while distracted, or driving while tired? Where does it end?
  • Cell phones reduce stress, which in turn reduces accidents. Who do you think the better driver is going to be? The person driving erratically through traffic to get to a client meeting on time? Or the one who can simply phone ahead and explain that the traffic has caused a delay, and then relax and drive the rest of the way there without panicking?
  • Cell phones are most useful in cars when there’s an emergency. The man who phones ahead to the hospital to let them know that his wife is in labour and they’re on their way in surely doesn’t deserve a ticket.
  • On very long drives, it can actually help to phone someone and talk to them, to avoid road fatigue and to stay alert.
  • Truckers, bus drivers and taxi drivers communicate via CB or central radio dispatches. Are there plans to ban those practices too? If not, why not? If the excuse is because to them it’s useful, then consider that to many individuals, the ability to talk on the phone while driving is also useful. What’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander, after all.
  • It’s a naked revenue grab. Too many people are bound to break this law, resulting in higher ticketing revenue for the government.
  • It’s a politics-only move. Like restricting liquids on planes. It plays into the stereotypes of the evil, SUV-driving suburbanites with their cell phones wreaking havoc on the roads. It doesn’t really make anyone safer, it just makes people feel safer. In my opinion, that’s a shoddy reason to restrict personal freedom.

The point is, this is probably going to be law, one way or the other. It’s too unpopular, politically, to make arguments against a total ban. But it’s a waste of a law. To truly improve our road safety, energy could be better focused elsewhere.

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Quebec imposes carbon tax

06.06.2007

Our “distinct society” just got a bit distincter, with the introduction of a province-wide carbon tax: Natural Resources Minister Claude Bechard, who announced Wednesday that a 0.8-cent-a-litre carbon tax will come into force on Oct 1, added that he hopes the oil companies, which are reporting record profits, would absorb the tax and not pass […]

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Perspective

09.14.2006

It was raining all day today, my car’s muffler decided to fritz out, I flubbed a job interview this morning, and I have a splitting headache. But I’m alive and nobody shot me or shot at me. So all in all, I’d have to say it’s been a pretty good day. Funny what a little […]

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Invasion of the Ontario license plates

09.01.2006

It’s Labour Day Weekend, and we all know what that means. That’s right, they’re everywhere: Ontario drivers have invaded our highways, side streets and alleyways. The “Je Me Souviens” uniformity has been broken up by a sea of “Yours to Discover”. Some are bringing their kids to school and helping them get settled in the […]

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Fun getting home for Yom Kippur

10.14.2005

Wednesday in the office was one of those do-a-zillion-things-at-once-to-try-to-leave-before-the-holiday-starts days. So of course I didn’t hear about this until it was time to leave and try to make it to the West Island with enough time to eat something before the fast started: A toxic spill in the West Island yesterday forced people to stay […]

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The age of electric

06.27.2005

I can’t help but think that life before electricity must have been so much simpler. Earlier today, I had to break into my own car when my car alarm inexplicably stopped working. At first, I thought the battery was dead on the clicker. But after trying the spare, I realized it was a problem with […]

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Road rage

10.25.2004

This brings a whole new meaning to “road rage”: An incensed Iranian motorist doused his car in petrol and set it ablaze with a match after picking up a parking ticket, media reported Wednesday. The ISNA student news agency posted photographs of the charred shell of the car on its Web site and quoted witnesses […]

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France: SUVs are evil

06.09.2004

Paris wants to ban SUVs. Why does this not surprise me? A Civic owner myself, I don’t have any particular use for SUVs. They’re big, they’re clunky, they use a ton of gas. Not exactly my cup of tea. But something tells me that banning them – especially in Europe, where most people already sensibly […]

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Cool car commercial

06.23.2003

Check out the great new Honda Accord commercial (via Damian). Pure genius! And it was all real.

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