Are Winter Tires Legally Necessary in Vancouver During the Winter?

Without a doubt, winter tires are highly beneficial in the winter months, but they are not a legal requirement in Vancouver unless there are signs posted requiring winter tires. Driving without winter tires in Vancouver will not void your insurance if you are involved in an accident and need to make a claim.  Not having  winter tires doesn’t’ mean that you are automatically at fault in a crash. However, if you get accident where winter tires could have helped, not having them may affect whether or how much you are at-fault.

Vancouver personal injury lawyers have found the BC courts recognizing the benefit of winter tires when ruling on driver negligence and liability. For example, in the case of Geiger v. Schmidt, 2010 BCSC, 1052 Justice Brown dismissed a claim against Mr. Schmidt finding that Mr. Schmidt had driven reasonably considering all the circumstances. This included the fact that he had snow tires on his car and he had reduced his speed in winter conditions.

Winter tires improves a driver’s traction on snow and ice and ability to stop. Installing winter tires involves taking precautions with preventative action.

What Are Winter Tires?

The Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations were amended in 2015 to clarify the definition of winter tires and traction devices, such as chains, including when and where they must be used.

According to the Motor Vehicle Act, subsection 208 (1) “winter tire” means a tire that meets the standards and specifications prescribed for winter tires. Winter tires will have a symbol of a mountain peak with a snowflake on the sidewalls.

Winter tires must also have no less than 3.5 mm of rubber tread on them.

While four matching winter tires is ideal, at least two matching winter tires are mandatory. All-season tires with chains are not an acceptable substitute for winter tires on signed highways.

All-season tires are not considered to be approved winter tires because they are not intended principally for winter use and they do not meet the necessary requirements.

Mandatory Use of Snow Tires

The majority of BC motorists drive in parts of the province where snow conditions are not common and so the ministry does not require all drivers to equip their vehicles with winter tires.

Signs have been placed on designated routes so motorists who travel on these highways in winter must have government approved winter tires installed. It is subsection 208(2) of the Motor Vehicle Act that gives authority to the minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act, by public notice or by placing signs, to prohibit any vehicle or a class of vehicles from being driven or operated on a highway, unless the vehicle is equipped with chains, winter tires or traction devices, or a combination of these, that the minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act considers adequate in view of prevailing road conditions.

According to subsection 208(2), a public notice or sign can also provide differently in relation to specified dates, prevailing weather conditions or any other criteria the responsible minister considers necessary or advisable.

BC cities, municipalities and private roads (such as ski hills) may have their own bylaws or rules around the use of winter tires, chains or traction devices that may differ from provincial highway regulations.

Designated Winter Tire and Chain-up Routes

There are designated routes that require passenger vehicles to be equipped with winter tires, and commercial vehicles to carry chains. Northern BC, the southern coast and the southern interior have routes which require legally certified tires. A full list of routes requiring winter tires and chains can be found on the ministry’s website. Drivers who plan to travel on these routes need to be “winter ready” by October 1st each year.

You Must Obey the Signs

Regulatory signs are posted in various locations on numbered and un-numbered highways throughout the province. When you come to a posted sign on the highway stating “Motorists Must Use Winter Tires/Commercial Vehicles Must Carry Tire Chains, October 1 – March 31”, you must have approved winter tires. When you see the R-047 Regulatory sign “Use Winter Tires or Carry Chains – Beyond This Point – October 1st – April 30th“ on a highway, you cannot drive on the highway without winter tires or chains beyond that point.

These signs are enforced by the police, ministry or other enforcement officials and failure to obey them is considered an offence. Motorists who are not compliant with the signs may be turned away from the highway and may be subject to a fine.


Drivers who don’t have the proper winter tires on their vehicle on the designated routes can receive a fine of $121.  Drivers who don’t have the minimum tread depth on their tires (3.5mm) on the designated routes can receive a fine of $109.

Taylor & Blair LLP, Personal Injury Lawyers, Vancouver BC

If you are hurt following an automobile accident during inclement weather conditions, consult with our car accident lawyers in Vancouver. Depending on the location and whether the vehicles are equipped with snow tires, those factors could affect the outcome of your legal action. We can assist you with the winter driving rules that apply to your case. Call or contact us in Vancouver at Taylor & Blair LLP at 604-737-6900.