Studded tires get a reprieve

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board July 13, 2012 09:09 am

Your studded tires should be safe for at least one more winter.

A Portland man who wants to ban studded tires on Oregon roads failed to gather enough signatures to put a proposed ban on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Jeff Bernards didn’t even come close, in fact. He needed at least 80,000 signatures from registered voters. He collected about 10,000.

We’re happy about his failure.

Although the Oregon Legislature has discussed banning or restricting studded tires many times but never done so, the issue has never gone before voters.

Considering more than 75 percent of the state’s residents live west of the Cascades, where roads are rarely coated in snow or ice, we’d have given good odds that Bernards’ initiative would have passed.

And that would be a dangerous thing for those of us who ply slippery roads in Eastern Oregon.

Although tests have shown that in many situations modern studless snow tires perform as well as studded tires — and generally better, on dry or wet pavement — that advantage is not universal.

On hard ice, which is not exactly rare hereabouts, cars equipped with studded tires can stop sooner than those with studless tires.

The main argument against studded tires can’t be disputed — they chew up roads in ways studless tires don’t.

But the oft-cited figure that studded tires cause $42 million in damage to state highways each year is outdated. The latest estimate is $11 million — it takes into account that steel studs, which caused more damage than current lightweight studs, have been illegal in Oregon for almost 20 years.

We might endorse a nominal surcharge on studded tires to cover that bill. But a ban isn’t necessary.