For Northwest drivers, safety given by studded tires takes a backseat to preserving roadways



SEATTLE – Despite the likelihood of icy Northwest streets and poor driving conditions this winter, two-thirds of Northwest residents say they’ll skip installing studded tires, perhaps – according to the latest poll results from PEMCO Insurance – to prevent wear and tear on local roadways. 

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, 79 percent of drivers who use studded tires in Washington and Oregon say they would be at least somewhat likely to reduce using studs in favor of preserving the quality of Northwest roads. 

 But that may not require much change in behavior among drivers on either side of the Cascades. Just 17 percent of drivers west of the mountains say they always or usually install studded tires, and even east of the Cascades, where snowy conditions are common, 38% of drivers regularly use studs. 

“The PEMCO poll shows that attitudes toward studded tires haven’t really changed since we first asked drivers about this topic in 2011,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “Our latest poll suggests that drivers know studs can damage roadways, and that many are choosing to prevent potholes and chewed-up roads over the added safety studded tires may bring in icy conditions.” 

 In fact, a majority of Northwest residents – 63 percent in Washington and 73 percent in Oregon – believe studded tires are problematic and contribute to roadway damage. According to the PEMCO poll, Oregon drivers feel stronger about the issue than their neighbors to the north – 32 percent of Oregonians view the wear and tear caused by studded tires as a “big problem,” while just 23 percent report the same sentiment in Washington. 

 Nevertheless, about half of all Northwest drivers support stricter laws for preserving roads and minimizing costly repairs. Men, in particular, are more likely to champion stricter regulations than female drivers (60 percent versus 49 percent). 

 But not all drivers are ready to kick studded tires to the curb. Those east of the Cascades are more likely than those west of the mountains to reject stricter regulations (38 percent versus 22 percent). 

Younger drivers in both states tend to favor studs, as well. Northwest drivers under age 35 are about twice as likely as their older counterparts to say they use studded tires (38 percent versus 15 percent). 

Parents also are bigger fans of studded tires than their kid-less counterparts. Those with children in the household are about twice as likely (29 percent versus 17 percent) as non-parents or empty nesters to install studded tires in both Washington and Oregon. 

“Regardless of where people line up on the issue, the fact is that studded tires do rip up the roads, which comes at a cost to taxpayers,” Osterberg said. 

Data from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) shows that the collective damage from studded tires to Washington’s asphalt and concrete pavement totals between $17.8 million and $27.3 million per year. 

And Oregon shares in its northern neighbor’s plight. Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) reports similar road maintenance costs, spending approximately $11 million each year patching up roads and bridges damaged by studs. 

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in May 2014. 

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range. 

About PEMCO Insurance PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Two Years in a Row.” For J.D. Power award information, visit