Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Off with the studs

The deadline for studded tire use is today, March 31st.

The safety of the traveling public is our number one priority, so we encourage drivers to drive for conditions wherever your travels take you. We do expect that snow in the mountain passes will continue for the next few days, and that we may see some brief, wet snow in the lowlands.

Currently, there is no indication of arctic-type weather that could lead to black ice. The presence of this wet snow in the lowlands and occasional heavier snow in the mountains does not indicate reason enough to extend the deadline.

Our weather forecasters also tell us the weather trend looks to be warming statewide, with the upcoming weekend being dry in almost all areas. We have our staff and equipment ready to provide for safe travel, and will impose chain restrictions if necessary.

We often talk about how studded tires damage the roadways. Are you also aware of how studded tires can make driving more dangerous? On wet roadways, you get less traction with studded tires as the studs decrease your stopping ability and increase your stopping distance. This is because they reduce full contact between a tire’s rubber compound and the pavement.

In case you may be traveling, or live outside Washington, you should know out-of-state drivers are not exempt from Washington's laws. The Washington State Patrol will enforce a $124 fine for those who use studded tires after the deadline. State troopers will use common sense if a sudden storm makes roads icy in a particular area.

You can read more about winter driving and tire options at http://www.blogger.com/www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter.


Anonymous said...

I beleive the decision to not extend the studded tire deadline was a mistake. I realize studded tires add wear and tear on the roadways, but I live above 1,000 ft outside of Monroe and we received 2" of new snow today and this increases my risk of having an accident on my way to and from work (which helps pay the taxes to fund our State). Many roads in our area have north facing slopes and they take much longer to thaw and/or clear than most areas. Also, I need to travel to Leavenworth this weekend and I wish I still had my traction tires with studs on.

I have decades of driving experience on snow and ice and beleive studded traction tires save lives and property and am willing to pay for repairs to the roads in order to use studs when needed. DOT and the State Patrol should be first concerned with safety, then asphalt.

Better luck next year. Also, maybe better notice of this blog's existence would increase the number of comments.

waldo123 said...

i just viewed the road conditions over snoqualmie pass and am looking forward to driving over without the safety and peace of mind that my snow tires would have provided. Thank you Washington State Department of Transportation for jeopardizing the safety of myself as well as my family.

Anonymous said...

I just viewed the road conditions over snoqualmie pass and am looking forward to traveling over without the safety and peace of mind that snow tires provide. Thank you Washington State Department of Transportation for jeopardizing the safety of myself and my family.

Anonymous said...

Major winter storm coming to the Eastern Washington Area--from 3 to 6". Great job! Hope no one gets hurt because of your department's lack of insight to climate change.

Anonymous said...

I checked a couple of weeks ago and your Website said April 4th was the day to remove. Now you say March 31st. Why?

Anonymous said...

With continuing snow in the Cascades, receiving a foot of snow 4/1 and more expected 4/2, with additional accumulations in Spokane, the question of WHY are we not delaying the removal of studs till 4/7 or 4/10? In seasons past we have had postponements due to weather. With conditions continuing to worsen this week, and wsdot website advising that drivers use traction tires, it seems to be difficult to do BOTH of these things(remove studs, and drive with traction tires). What is the reason for steadfastly ignoring conditions in favor of a date (4/1)?

Anonymous said...

We live in Idaho in the mountains and woke up this morning to four inches of snow and more to come. We need to travel to Seattle, and Snoqualie Pass seems to have snow. We are afraid to take off our snow tires. Will we be safe?

Anonymous said...

Alice, Chris and others at WSDOT,

Who are you kidding? Have you taken a few seconds to observe conditions using your own web cams? Try this: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/stevens/Gallery/default.aspx?Direction=E. It's the Stevens Pass cam. Can you point out the wet, slushy conditions that would not be made safer with studded tires? You reference the forecasters but King5 News got it right last night when Jeff Renner described this decision not to extend the deadline given the conditions and known forecast as "unbelievable". It's spring break and we have many families with young children crossing the passes. Please give our residents and visitors a little more consideration. We all know the damage studded tires cause but a few days to week extension would have been logical...apparently for anyone outside state government. This was an easy PR win for you guys to demonstrate people and safety are your top priority. You're about to receive economic stimulus funds so you don't need the $124 per car for studded tires. We can only hope different people are involved in decisions on spending the economic stimulus funds...

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Michigan where studded tires have been banned since the mid 70's and people seem to get along just fine without stids there as well as the rest of the midwest and great lakes region where we get plenty of snow. I have been across all three passes in the winter with all season tires and had no problem getting around. If you do not feel confortable driving without studs then don't drive. I think WSDOT is doing a great job, and if it was up to me studded tires would be completely outlawed.

Anonymous said...

The WA DOT is not doing their jobs. Public safety on the roads is what should guide their every decision not dollars for asphalt. An extension of the deadline for removal of studs would have been the right decision. Peoples lives are at stake, use some common sense.

Anonymous said...

I chose to leave the studs on my wife's car do to the weather she is not the best icy road driver and she has the kids in her car most of the time she left and came back less the 15 minutes later and was given a ticket for the studs. So i sat and watched 2 officers targeting a firestone tire store down the road and i watched them pull over 4 cars with studs be for i went to work and being quite Rude to people about how it's the law. its nice to know that laws are more important than the people they are to protect. i believe the state Gov. has lost sight of what they were hired for and are trying to find money in the wrong place to generate revenue to make up for loss from this winter instead of protecting the people and making sure the roads are safe and or allowing the people to leave on the studded tires for the safety our families. Of all the years they make a stupid choice like this. We have had the most snow on record. On 3-31-09 it snowed in Eastern Wa. 4-01-09 was below freezing all day and 4-02-09 it snowed 2" way to go state patrol and local police dept. glad your out there making sure the roads and PEOPLE are safe!!!

Anonymous said...

Studs damage the roadway and only aid traction in limited circumstances. I'm all for a total ban on studded tires. 100's of thousands of drivers are exposed to rutted freeways every day as a result of studded tires. These ruts create hazardous conditions for all drivers all year long - especially in wet weather! It's time for drivers to wake up and realize that studs are not the solution. Look at all of the other states that ban them. The winter snow tires with high-gripping rubber are much better.

WSDOT made the right decision to not extend the deadline.

Kyle said...

I have never owned studded tires and I have gotten along just fine in the ice and snow. I bought all season tires, and guess what, they work great in the snow and ice. I drive up to the mountains to go snowboarding many times a year and drive between Seattle and Pullman over the pass and have had no problems. My car has front wheel drive and I get along just fine. I put on my chains when they are required and slow down when it is icy. People need to be more cautious when driving in the snow and not to rely on their tires to keep them from sliding off the road.

WSDOT did the right thing in not extending the deadline to have your studded tires removed.

Guy Spencer said...

WSDOT's attitude that safety is better served by preventing the use of studded tires for an extra week or two during intensively snowy weather in the passes is a failure of math skills and a triumph of agenda over rational thought.

As for your arguments in your studies on your website purporting that non-studded tires are just as good, please give us some real engineering and science by independent parties, on the kind of wet-ice conditions we find in the Cascades, based on load and decceleration measurements on downhill slopes, not descriptive anecdotes based on statistics for different weather and topographical conditions.

Yes, it's true that statistically, studs are not quite so advantageous in flat Midwestern or Scandinavian situations where road temperatures are 10 or 20 or 30 degrees below zero Celsius. Cold ice is not as slick as warm ice, and flat ice is not as slick as downhill ice.

However, after 40 years of driving on various tires on various vehicles in climates ranging from minus 35 C in southeast Idaho to 0 degrees C and running water over ice in the western Cascades, I know that studs work very substantially better in the warm conditions than do conventional M+S tires.

Your online "studies" state flatly the ONLY reason for ruts is use of studs.

What kind of damage do the chains under 60,000 pound trucks do to the road? Where does the sand and rock abraded from the road surface by those chains go? What is the impact of that, and of sand and gravel used for traction, when it is ground against road surfaces by tires once the snow has melted? What damage does freeze/thaw cause when combined with these two? Clearly these have SOME impact. Maybe it is 0.1% of the problem, maybe it is 50%, but certainly it is not zero, as your studies allege.

If I recall correctly, the AASHTO design criteria for subgrades make the fourth power of vehicle load a variable directly related to subgrade damage. Consequently one 60,000 pound truck has the impact of 20 to the 4th power, or 160,000 cars weighing 3,000 pounds each, on subgrade. What happens to the road surface when you put chains on that truck, or put gravel on top of the road and under its tires?

You have not approached this issue with science, but rather with an apparently agenda-based pseudo-science media-PR approach. Your absolute statement that studs are the ONLY cause of ruts is by nature incorrect. Hence a critical thinker can't accept any other of your statements at face value.

Your advice to drive for the conditions reminds me of Sound Transit's advice to Rainier Valley children and their parents to be extra careful when crossing the light rail line. You know your actions will likely lead to increased injuries and damage, so you attempt to blame the victim in advance. Of course we drive for the conditions. And those of us who drive on snow and ice a lot know studs give us better safety. We go to a lot of expense and trouble to buy extra tires, and to install and remove studded tires on our vehicles twice a year.

I saw somewhere (in the newspaper?) WSDOT estimates the road damages due to studs at $18 million per year statewide. I figured this must be a misprint, it must be $180 million or $1.8 billion, because $18 million is such a small number when divided among 6 million residents in the state. Is this true? If it's really only $3 per capita annually, it's a drop in the bucket. If you must, charge us five times that and make us put a sticker on our license plate showing we have paid for the impact of our safety equipment - although the predominance of stud use by Eastern Washingtonians (I am not one) will make them howl. Maybe Western Washingtonians should pay an extra fee for all the expensive storm water management construction required for roads by Western Washington's wet weather.

As for your concerns that vehicles are less safe with studded tires during non-icy conditions due to reduced braking ability, spare me your concern, and let me make the personal safety decision for myself. Following too closely is the number one cause of "accidents", is it not? Remind people not to do it, and studs' negative impacts on safety are cut to near zero. It's worked for me for 40 years of studded tire use in winter, on ice and off. Other "accidents" tend not to be significantly mitigated by better braking. For example, other errors in judgement (falling asleep, failure to yield or stop at intersections, etc.) are not mitigated significantly by not having studs. And PLEASE don't tell me you're going to protect me from DUI drivers by improving their braking.

You may remove this paragraph and the following paragraph from my post if you wish.

I note on your website that "comment moderation has been enabled" and that (apparently as a consequence) "all comments must be approved by the blog author". I trust this doesn't mean that if a poster makes a really good argument, you delete their argument, or modify it with the result of loss of cogency in order to save disk space. If it does, I will protest vehemently to my three state legislators, and to the media as well.

Anonymous said...

Studded tires should be banned permanently. I used to use them myself until I realized how much damage they were doing to road surfaces. Studs are the only thing I know of that can make ruts in a concrete road surface.

The ruts mean less traction, and more road noise, for everyone, all year round. Not just the five percent or less of drivers who are using studded tires in the winter on the west side of the state.

Today's tires are a lot better, in all conditions, than the tires available in the late 1960's when studs were first allowed. Almost all tires now in use qualify as traction tires.

Anonymous said...

Chains required and more snow to come over Snoqualmie today. Looking at the other comments, you would figure that our state would listen to the people. I drive over every other weekend, 4 times, I am a little concerned today as chains are already required, but may down grade later. I wish the state would listen to its people, worry more about safety. Even without studs no one takes care of the roads anyway. Go across any major freeway in this state and you will find HUGE grooves. I do 50,000 miles year in my car and see the condition of roads everywhere.

Sorry, just disappointed and a little concerned about going over with my son later today.

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