Winter tire, early spring snowfall reminder

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A snow plow clears a street in the town of Hudson, west of Montreal, Tuesday, December 29, 2015 during the first major storm of winter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

VICTORIA – Drivers are reminded that winter tire regulations remain in place until April 30, 2020, on many highways to account for early spring snowfall.

The ministry is following the advice and orders of the provincial health officer and the federal government to keep British Columbians as safe as possible and stop the spread of COVID-19. While highways and roads remain open, the provincial health officer recommends that people stay close to home and avoid any non-essential travel.

Winter tire regulations are currently in effect for most B.C. highways so people should ensure their vehicle is equipped with tires with the mountain/snowflake or mud and snow (M + S) symbol when travelling on designated routes.

Tires must be in good condition and have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 millimetres. For rural highways and mountain passes, tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol provide the best traction and handling.

Last winter, the regulations were extended to April 30 from March 31 on select highways, most of which are located in the Interior and northern parts of the province. Road conditions can change quickly and snowfall is still possible in these regions.

While maintenance crews strive to keep routes safe and in the best possible condition, people must use caution and slow down when they encounter bad weather or limited visibility. Driving to current conditions will improve safety for everyone on the road.

Crashes can be prevented when people are prepared. Here are some helpful tips for travelling in winter driving conditions:

* Check the weather forecast and adjust travel times to more favourable conditions, or choose alternative routes.

* For current road conditions, check DriveBC before leaving, as well as the nearly 800 highway webcam views available at more than 400 locations throughout B.C.

* Wear comfortable clothing that does not restrict movement while driving, but bring warm clothing (winter boots, coat, gloves and hat) in case getting out of the vehicle is required.

* Have an emergency plan. Ensure the vehicle has a full tank of gas and is equipped with a windshield scraper and snow brush, food and water, a first-aid kit and other emergency supplies.

* If stuck or stranded, do not panic. Stay with the vehicle for safety and warmth and if a cellphone is available, call for roadside assistance. If there is an emergency, call 911.

Heavy snowfall or rapidly warming spring temperatures can increase the risk of avalanches in some areas. This can cause temporary highway closures while ministry avalanche experts ensure safe conditions. During these times, obey all traffic control personnel.

The Sea to Sky Highway in the Lower Mainland and the Malahat on Vancouver Island are not included. Winter tire regulations were lifted on those routes on March 31.