A timely tire study

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 12, 2014 08:38 am

Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz isn’t promising to have the final word on the efficacy of studded snow tires.

But the Ontario Republican, whose legislative district includes Baker County, certainly is justified in saying that a pending study which he helped to inspire “will provide valuable information for all of us.”

Bentz, who has opposed proposed bans on studded tires in Oregon — a position we share — announced this week that the Oregon Department of Transportation will compile several national and international studies that compare the effectiveness of studded and studless snow tires on a variety of road conditions.

The ODOT report, which is slated to be finished this fall, should resolve, to the extent this is possible, the debate over whether studded tires are “necessary.”

We believe, and have argued in this space in the past, that in Baker County and most of the rest of Oregon east of the Cascades, studded tires give drivers a significant safety advantage when roads are coated in ice or hard-packed snow (as opposed to fresh snow or slush).

Our opinion is based largely on tests conducted in Alaska in 1994. Those tests showed that on ice, vehicles with studded tires can stop in a shorter distance than vehicles with studless snow tires.

Those tests also showed that cars with studless tires stop sooner than cars with studded tires on pavement that’s dry, wet or covered with fresh, unpacked snow.

It’s beyond dispute that today’s studless tires are different than those made 20 years ago. And we don’t doubt that new studless tires are also better.

Whether they’ve surpassed studded tires in all conditions is the crucial question, and the one Bentz expects ODOT’s report will answer.

If it turns out that studded tires retain at advantage on icy roads, then we will continue to oppose any effort, whether by the Legislature or by voters via a ballot initiative, to ban studded tires in Oregon.