Studded tires have generated much controversy over the years; a number of states have banned them, while others, including Washington, have restricted their use and passed legislation to require lighter-weight studs. This report reviews recent studies that have addressed the performance and safety of the current generation of studded tires as well as the new “studless” winter tires on late-model vehicles.
The well-documented correlation between studded tires and pavement wear was not the focus of this work. The issues surrounding studded tire performance and safety are complex. From the standpoint of traction alone, studded tires, when new, often provide some benefit over other tire types on ice-covered roads when the temperature is near freezing. However, the advent of the new studless tires has diminished the marginal benefit, and recent studies suggest that the infrequent, narrow range of conditions necessary for benefit from studded tires may not outweigh their detrimental effect on traction in dry or wet conditions on certain pavement types. In addition, a host of primary and secondary safety factors are related to studded tire use, many of which are very difficult to quantify, including facets of driver behavior and safety perception.