Reminding consumers about deadline for removal of studded snow tires can bring in added sales

Jan. 1, 2020
Spring is way-past sprung. Motorists who are still riding on their winter-season studded snow tires are now in need of having a replacement set installed, lest they be exposed to getting a costly traffic ticket. Currently 24 states allow studded tire
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Spring is way-past sprung. Motorists who are still riding on their winter-season studded snow tires are now in need of having a replacement set installed, lest they be exposed to getting a costly traffic ticket.

The tall signboard in front of Newbury Tire in Ohio succinctly addresses the issue by posting a reminder inviting drivers to pull on in, citing the state’s now-expired April deadline for removing these types of tires.

Currently 24 states allow studded tire use during the winter months. Fines exceeding $100 are being assessed to motorists caught with studs after the spring removal deadline has arrived, usually in March or April depending on local weather conditions. While the police may not be able to readily detect an illegal studded tire whizzing down the highway, this is just the type of violation to add additional insult to one’s pocketbook when pulled over for another infraction.

Some rugged-climate states – such as Minnesota and Michigan – have enforced an overall ban on studded tires since the 1970s.

Although silvery studs may be hip as a fashionable jewelry item, road-care authorities tend to take a frosty stance toward the studs affixed to tires and the punishment they inflict upon non-snow covered pavement. Studded tires increase resurfacing costs and generate dust-borne particulate air pollutants, according to governmental studies.

Studs also create safety concerns when driven on non-snowy roads.

“Under wet driving conditions the stopping ability of vehicles equipped with studded tires is actually reduced,” notes Chris Christopher, co-director of maintenance and operations for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). “Tire studs reduce the full contact between a tire’s rubber compound and the pavement. Research on studded tires consistently shows that vehicles equipped with studded tires require a longer stopping distance on wet or dry pavement than do vehicles equipped with standard tires.”

In Washington, 100 percent of the “rutting” damage to concrete highway surfaces is attributed to studded tires. Studs account for about 60 percent of the rutting experienced on asphalt roads, according to Christopher. In addition to causing excess roughness and noise, rutting leads to ponding, hydroplaning, heightened road spray and other problems.

“Ultimately, WSDOT would like to see the use of tire studs phased out to improve safety and reduce pavement maintenance and preservation costs. Meanwhile, WSDOT hopes the trend will at least move to the introduction of new, even lighter-weighted studs,” he reports. “If motorists use studs weighing no more than 1.1 grams – the stud of choice in Scandinavian countries – the potential of pavement wear in Washington would be reduced by an additional 36 percent.

“Unfortunately, most states have yet to adopt the use of lighter weighted studs, leaving out incentives for companies to ‘re-tool’ manufacturing and installation equipment to accommodate the new demand,” Christopher continues. “Currently, the typical tire stud for approximately 85 to 90 percent of passenger cars in the United States weighs about 1.7 to 1.9 grams.”

Much of the research on studded tires comes from Finland and Sweden, where studded tire use is heavy during the winter months. U.S. studies concentrate on states like Alaska, where lightweight studs have been advocated, and Minnesota and Michigan – where all studs have been outlawed since the early 1970s, according to Christopher. “These studies all agree on one finding: Pavement wear and rutting due to studded tire use is substantial and costly.”

Increased-traction tires approved for year-round use by Washington authorities have at least an eighth of an inch of tread and bear labeling designations such as Mud and Snow, M+S, MS or All Season. The Mountain/Snowflake logo is another recognizable symbol, he points out.

WSDOT is advising drivers to work with their local tire dealer when fall approaches to determine the best type of tire for their anticipated winter driving conditions. The agency wants motorists to know that there is a variety of suitable alternatives to studded tires; a list is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter.

According to a recent survey, the public is unaware of both the driving risks associated with studded tires and the industry’s other offerings, Christopher reports. “The safety issues did not appear to resonate with people,” he says.

“The survey indicated that most people would not be willing not pay a fee, even as low as $5, on studded tires. The survey also indicated that a ban on studded tires would not be a significant concern to a majority of drivers,” Christopher continues.

“WSDOT worked collaboratively with the tire industry over the past several months. The industry has taken a major shift in perspective – their marketing and education are now focused on alternatives to studded tires for winter driving,” he notes.

For a detailed Washington State report about studded tires, visit The Study of Pavement and Studded Tire Damage.

In a cost-benefit analysis of studded tires conducted in California, where air pollution is an over-riding issue, officials cite Japanese research describing the excess dust they create. For more information, visit www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/ote/benefit_cost/case_studies/tires.html.

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