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Getting There: Lose the studded tires

November 26, 2018

Another hysterical Chicken Little has joined the chorus against studded tires: the Washington State Department of Transportation.

What do they know about anything? They’ve only been building, maintaining and regulating the state’s transportation infrastructure since 1905.

Kidding aside, wintry weather is here and so is the seasonal debate over studded tires. Some people swear by them. Other people swear when they see – and hear – them biting into the roadway.

Let’s just settle it here. Motorists do not need studded tires.

Every year, studded tires cause about $24.5 million in damage to Washington’s roads and highways, according to WSDOT. On top of that, stud-free winter tires perform better than studs in all winter conditions except for the dreaded “glare ice,” which occurs about 1 percent of the time in the Spokane area, says WSDOT.

Furthermore, according to snow traction and ice braking tests done by Consumer Reports, “studded models do indeed grip well on ice, but they do not always out-perform studless models, which have more advanced winter tread compounds that stay pliable in the cold.”

Other studies have shown that while studs are the best option for clear ice in temperatures hovering around zero, they reduce a vehicle’s ability to stop on roadways that are simply wet.

So, to reiterate: motorists do not need studded tires.

That’s why state lawmakers limited the use of studded tires between Nov. 1 and March 31 and instituted a $5 fee on each one sold. It’s that fee that has brought a new public information campaign to town.

WSDOT has placed 13 billboards around the region telling motorists, in no uncertain terms, to “ditch the studs.” It’s also running nearly 1,800 radio spots through December with the same message. And don’t be surprised if you see an ad discouraging use of the toothy tires on social media and other websites in coming weeks.

The ads point people to DitchTheStuds.com, which makes visitors “aware of the road deterioration, financial impact for taxpayers, the safety implications for other drivers, and, secondarily, the alternatives to studded tires.”

This years marks the first year that the ad campaign is running, and it’s running only in Spokane County, as part of a pilot to see if the campaign has an effect. Through the per-tire fee, the state Legislature and WSDOT set aside $150,000 “to establish a pilot media-based public information campaign regarding the damage of studded tire use on state and local roadways in Spokane county,” according to the transportation department.

Spokane was chosen because of the “high utilization of studded tires in this jurisdiction,” according to WSDOT.

Before you shake your mittened fist at those foolish Puget Sound policymakers for not fully appreciating how harsh (and awesome) winters are over here, know that this effort was led by state Sen. Andy Billig, a Spokane Democrat recently elevated to the post of Senate majority leader.

So ditch the studs. That is, unless you think paying more than $24 million in needless damage to state roads every year is wise.

Got a transportation question? Write nickd@spokesman.com.

Main Avenue work complete

Main Avenue heading down to Spokane’s Peaceful Valley neighborhood is open again, following months of work.

The street project is related to the city’s yearslong work to stop sewage from entering the Spokane River.

The $3.7 million work brought storm gardens to Main from Cedar Street to Monroe Street, Water Avenue from Ash Street to Cedar Street, and Cedar Street from Clarke Avenue to Water Avenue. A wider multiuse path was also constructed.

New car stench?

Ford Motor Co. has patented a process to remove the “new car smell” from its vehicles, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The move is a sign of the growing market for cars in China, where people “hate the new car smell,” the paper reported.

“Unpleasant interior smell/odor remains the top industry problem in that market,” said Brent Gruber, senior director, global automotive, at J.D. Power, according to the article. “To put that in context, it is nearly double the problem rate of the second most prevalent problem, excessive fuel consumption.”

Quartz media reported last year that Ford had compiled a “team of recruits to its Chinese research labs” who were “18 smell testers, or so-called ‘Golden Noses,’ charged with making sure new cars don’t smell bad.”

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