BEND, OR -- Central Oregon tire stores are always busy, come studded tire season. But, this year, they’re not as busy as in a typical November. ODOT's Peter Murphy is hopeful drivers are becoming more aware of the damage studs cause. The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates studded tires cause about $8 million in damage to state highways, each year. And, he says, studs are only useful about 1% of the year, "It’s times when you have ice on the road, first of all, not snow. They’re not as effective in snow as you might think."
But Dale Thompson, with Les Schwab Tires, doesn't think there's been a shift in consumer behavior. He believes fewer people have put on studs due to a lack of early season snow, "It’s hard for us to say that people are making a conscious choice to switch away from one winter tire to another, at this point. They’re just not putting them on, like they normally do, because it’s been so late in coming, this year." He says when the weather starts to shift, it prompts some drivers to get their studded tires on. For others, it causes them to recognize their old tires don’t have the same traction they used to, and they’ll get a new set. But, this year, people seem to be stretching out their old tires as long as possible. "We’ve just been so dry and so warm for so long, that people just aren’t putting their winter tires on - Studded snow, or studless snow tires, or a new set of all-season. We’re just seeing a reduced number of tire sales as a result."
And, despite ODOT’s claims, Thompson says it’s important drivers choose a tire that makes them feel comfortable in the conditions, "Winter tires are designed to give you extra grip, for braking and handling, and help you drive confidently in snow and ice. Studded tires do offer additional traction in more treacherous driving conditions, especially icy conditions." Now that the snow is finally here, Thompson expects sales will pick up and studded tires will again make an appearance in the High Desert.