Studded-tire season is over, but the controversy never seems to end in the Northwest.
Drivers, steampunk lovers and Mad Max wannabes, it’s time to remove those studded tires, not that you needed them for such a mellow winter. Washington law only allows studs through March 31. After that, drivers risk a $124 fine.
If transportation officials had their way, though, you’d leave your studs in the corner of the garage for your future grandchildren to ask, “What’s up with those weird, spiky tires, grandpa?”
The state’s transportation agencies have been lobbying against studded tires for nearly three decades without much success.
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Both bills would require a permit to show off your studs, or risk a fine. Senators Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Andy Billig, D-Spokane, introduced the legislation. Reads the bill:
“The legislature recognizes that studded tires cause millions of dollars in damages to the state’s highways each year and that adding a fee for the use of studded tires is not about raising revenue or taxation but rather about ensuring that people are paying their fair share for the damage they cause.”
Millions of dollars in damage? Surely, that’s hyperbole.
Not so, according to state reports. The Washington State Transportation Commission estimated that studded tires do about $16 million damage to state highways annually.
Last year, Oregon released a comprehensive 187-page report about studded tires. Researchers found that studded tire traffic in 2012 caused an estimated $8.5 million damage to the state highway system. The report estimates repairing damage from 2012 to 2022 would cost about $44 million – just for highways.
Oregonians are changing their ways, though. The report found just 4 percent of registered cars last winter were equipped with studded tires, compared to 16 percent in 1995. But instead of using studded tires on just one wheel set, more drivers were fully loading their car with studs.
The report found studded tires were slightly more effective on ice, but non-studded winter tires were “better than studded tires in almost all winter driving conditions.”