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Studs legal, but are they the right choice?

Thursday, November 17, 2016by  Jon Osterberg

studded tireSnow in the mountain passes and predictions of a snowy winter have Northwest motorists thinking about winter driving.

Specifically, how will we – especially west-side lowlanders – deal with snow-covered roadways?

Despite legislative efforts to ban studded tires, they remain legal in Washington and Oregon between Nov. 1 and March 31. A 2014 PEMCO Poll revealed that 11% of Northwest drivers said they always put studded tires on, while 65% say they never do.

Our poll also revealed that 54% of Washington and Oregon drivers said stricter laws are needed to reduce studs’ wear and tear on roads.

That same poll showed that studs are used by more than twice as many drivers east of the Cascades, where snow and icy roads are far more common in winter. It can be argued that drivers in those frigid locales have a higher need for studs to ensure safe traction.

So, Northwest drivers ponder the question: Given the typical winter-road conditions where I live, are studded tires the right choice for me?

Officials in Olympia have soured on studs. The Washington State Department of Transportation says on its website, “Ultimately, WSDOT would like to see the use of tire studs phased out to improve safety and reduce pavement maintenance and preservation costs.”

Studded tires seem to be on the decline. A March 2016 Oregonian article said a state transportation department survey revealed that 16% of Oregon drivers used studs at one time, but that number had dropped to 4% in 2014.

mechanic installing tires on car Perhaps people use studded tires less as they learn more about their impact on road surfaces. It’s also possible that drivers, now buying all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles in record numbers, feel studs aren’t necessary for traction and safety.

Regardless, we're now in that annual pre-Thanksgiving surge where motorists switch to winter tires. Whether those tires are studded or studless, safety should be the ultimate factor in choosing what’s right for you.

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