Should Washington ban studded tires?

The sound of rainshakers from the car next to me reminded me it’s studded tire season.

Studded tires are legal for use between Nov. 1 and March 31 in our state. But that doesn’t mean the state wants you to use them.

In fact, the Washington State Transportation Commission every year recommends that the governor and Legislature ban studded tires (a previous ban was lifted in 1969).

So far, efforts to ban or tax the tires have failed — even though 6 in 10 people in our state recognize that studded tires are problematic and contribute to roadway damage, according to a recent Pemco Insurance poll.

The problem may be with people like me.

When my 7-year-old who longs for a driver’s license finally gets one, the poll results indicate I might just say to heck with the roads, we’re putting studded tires on that jalopy.

Those with children in the household were about twice as likely (29 percent versus 17 percent) as non-parents or empty nesters to install studded tires in both Washington and Oregon, the poll showed.

Men were more likely than women to favor stricter regulations on studded tires (60 percent versus 49 percent).

Overall, less than one-quarter of those surveyed in Washington thought studded tires were a “big problem.”

“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,” PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg said in a press release.

The state Department of Transportation estimates that studded tires cause from $7.8 million to $16 million worth of damage to state roadways each year. Studded tires damage pavements through “raveling,” wearing away at the surface until ruts form to the point that the pavement needs to undergo diamond grinding and, eventually, be replaced.

It’s not just a cosmetic concern but one of safety, too, with such rutting leading to hydroplaning and other ills.

The state urges drivers to consider traction tires instead.

Have a question? Email us at Please include your name and city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog.

Should Washington ban studded tires?

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