Winter driving conditions can be particularly dangerous and according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, over 1,300 people are killed annually in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement. In addition, more than 116,800 people are injured each year in those conditions. During snowfall or sleet, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes. If you live in an area that experiences heavy snowfall or icy driving conditions, you’ll want to make sure your vehicle is prepared.
As you can imagine, tires play an integral role in your safety while driving on snow or ice. For severe winter weather, studded tires are an option so long as they are legal where you live. They can provide a significant improvement in traction and safety, but they can also damage roadways — which is why you can’t use them everywhere. In this article, we’ll provide you with the information you need to decide if studded tires are the right option for you.
What are studded tires?
Studded or studdable tires are a type of tire that have metal studs embedded in their tread. These studs provide additional grip and traction on slippery surfaces, like ice and snow. They are a type of winter or snow tire with compound that remains pliable in extremely cold temperatures. This way, the studs are able to bite into the road for traction.
Generally, studded or studdable tires are considered to be a safe and effective way to increase traction in extreme winter weather driving conditions. But some states and even countries have banned the use of studs, since they can cause damage to roadways. In those areas, it’s highly recommended to invest into a proper set of winter or snow tires so you have the traction you need to safely drive in those conditions.
What are tire studs?
Typically made from a hard and durable material like tungsten carbide, tire studs are essentially small metal studs that are embedded into the tread of a tire. They consist of two main parts, the tungsten carbide pin that sticks out beyond the tire, and the cylindrical metal jacket or body that holds the stud in the tire tread by a flange at the base.
Tire studs should be evenly spaced throughout the tread and are typically installed in a pattern that optimizes traction and handling. They should only be installed on new tires that haven’t been driven on. Installing studs on tires that have been used can result in serious tire damage.
Studs can be purchased in different lengths, ranging from 10mm to 16mm. They are typically differentiated by their housing color and are identified by their Tire Stud Manufacturer Index (T.S.M.I.) number.
Who should use tire studs?
If you find yourself driving more often on ice than on snow, you should consider tire studs. Also, if you do much of your driving on rural or unpaved roads, driving on studded tires would be beneficial to your safety. But again, refer to our table below to ensure you can legally use studded tires where you live.
Tire stud laws by state in the U.S.
The following information was accurate at the time of publishing. Please always check your local Department of Transportation (DOT) for up-to-date legislation.
|Alabama||Allowed when required for safety due to snow, rain, or other conditions that tend to cause a vehicle to skid. Studs must be of reasonable proportions.|
|Alaska||North of 60° Latitude: Allowed September 16 to April 30|
South of 60° Latitude: Allowed October 1 to April 14
|Arizona||Allowed October 1 to May 1|
|Arkansas||Allowed November 15 to April 15|
|California||Allowed November 1 to April 30|
|Connecticut||Allowed from November 15 to April 30|
|Delaware||Allowed from October 15 to April 15|
|Georgia||Allowed when required for safety due to snow, ice, or other conditions that tend to cause a vehicle to skid.|
|Hawaii||Only allowed on either the Mauna Kea access road above Hale Pohaku or any other road within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve leased to the University of Hawaii.|
|Idaho||Allowed October 1 to April 30|
|Illinois||Only allowed for rural mail carriers and persons with disabilities living in unincorporated areas from November 15 to April 1|
|Indiana||Allowed October 1 to May 1|
|Iowa||Allowed November 1 to April 1|
|Kansas||Allowed November 1 to April 1|
|Maine||Allowed October 1 to April 30|
|Maryland||Allowed November 1 to March 31 only in the following counties: Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington|
|Massachusetts||Allowed November 2 to April 30|
|Minnesota||Only allowed for rural mail carriers under certain conditions from November 1 to April 15|
|Missouri||Allowed November 2 to March 31|
|Montana||Allowed October 1 to May 31|
|Nebraska||Allowed November 1 to April 1|
|Nevada||Allowed October 1 to April 30|
|New Jersey||Allowed November 15 to April 1|
|New Mexico||Allowed when required for safety due to snow, ice, or other conditions that tend to cause a vehicle to skid.|
|New York||Allowed October 16 to April 30|
|North Dakota||Allowed from October 15 to April 15|
|Ohio||Allowed from November 1 to April 15|
|Oklahoma||Allowed from November 1 to April 1|
|Oregon||Allowed from November 1 to March 31|
|Pennsylvania||Allowed from November 1 to April 15|
|Rhode Island||Allowed from November 15 to April 1|
|South Dakota||Allowed October 1 to April 30|
|Tennessee||Allowed October 1 to April 15|
|Utah||Allowed October 15 to March 31|
|Virginia||Allowed October 15 to April 15|
|Washington||Allowed November 1 to March 31|
|West Virginia||Allowed November 1 to April 15 on tires operated at 40 PSI or below|
|Wisconsin||Not allowed except for emergency vehicles, school buses, and vehicles used to deliver mail. Vehicles with out-of-state registrations are exempt only if the vehicle is in the course of passing through the state for a period of not more than 30 days.|