Time to swap out your studded tires, drivers.
The state’s deadline to have them off vehicles and roadways is midnight Wednesday. Starting April 1, law enforcement can issue tickets with $136 fines.
Repairing damage caused by studded tires on state highways is costly, between $23 million and $33 million annually, according to Washington State Department of Transportation estimates. Those costs, like plenty of others in construction, are higher from even five years ago by about $4 million largely because grinding highways is more expensive, WSDOT spokesperson Barbara LaBoe said.
Those ruts in a lane are caused by studded tires, according to WSDOT. Once in the roadway, the ruts can reduce steering responsiveness and accumulate water, creating a hydroplane risk.
In 2016, the state began charging a $5 fee on studded tires, of which 90% goes to a state fund for road repairs. The rest stays with the retailer.
The traction feature is such a problem that the Washington State Transportation Commission has urged the Legislature to ban their sale. That request has failed each time it was proposed.
A 2018 WSDOT survey in Spokane County found that 95% of respondents knew studded tires damage roads. But only 12.4% used studded tires and 63% said knowing the cost of damage would deter using them in the future.
According to the Washington State Transportation Commission, studded tires cause a specific kind of damage called “raveling” on concrete that WSDOT estimates costs between $15 million and $23 million per year. The commission also claims the studs are responsible primarily, but not exclusively, for that kind of wear on hot mix asphalt, leading to $8 to $10 million in damage each year.
Several states ban or restrict studded tire use. Even Alaska outlaws them from May to Sept. 15 in much of The Last Frontier.
The state is not extending the studded tire deadline. WSDOT encourages drivers to check road conditions and weather forecasts before leaving. One way to do so is calling 5-1-1 for a road conditions report.