A studded tire. File photo: Chas Hundley

Today marks the first day you can legally use studded tires on Oregon roads. 

The Oregon Department of Transportation would rather you didn’t. 

“Our latest study concluded studded tires cause about $8.5 million in damage each year on state highways,” ODOT said in a press release issued October 26. 

Instead, the highway department noted that an alternative was to use tires that meet Rubber Manufacturers Association standards for use in severe snow conditions, which are marked with a special symbol on the sidewall showing a three-peaked mountain and snowflake. 

“These tires work about as well as studded tires on ice, but work better than studded tires or regular, all-weather tires in most other winter conditions. And they cause no more damage to road surfaces than regular, all-weather tires,” ODOT said. 

Another option is to use some form of chains that attach to a vehicle, outside of the tire, or wheel, though ODOT cautioned that link chains are not recommended for use on some vehicles and that motorists should consult their owner’s manual. 

In general, studded tires are allowed November 1 through March 31; the season was extended more than once in 2020 due to the pandemic in light of social distancing orders as the state grappled with the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A bill to require ODOT to study the effects of studded tires on Oregon’s roads and present possible alternatives for legislators to take up died in committee at the end of the legislative session this year. 

In winter weather conditions, signs may direct motorists to use chains before proceeding. Oregon law requires vehicles stated on the sign to use chains; some passenger vehicles not towing anything can instead use traction tires. In some cases, all vehicles may be required to have chains, though not necessarily use them. 

In 2021, the fine for failing to use chains or traction tires increased to $880. Citing public safety reasons, ODOT said the legislature raised the fines to encourage compliance. 

“When a truck loses traction and becomes stuck or crashes, it can delay dozens or hundreds of other travelers impacted by blocked lanes. Crashes on Oregon highways and freeways can block traffic for many hours depending on the location, weather conditions, severity of crash and availability of incident responders,” ODOT said. 

For the latest Oregon road conditions go online to www.TripCheck.com or call 5-1-1.