What Is the Law Regarding Studded Snow Tires?

by David B. Ryan

Snow tires, with their deeper treads, improve traction on snow and ice. Some drivers believe that traction can be improved further by the use of "studs," small metal pins that stick out beyond the tire surface. Studded tires became popular beginning in the 1960s. More recently, they have fallen out of favor due to advances in tread design and, especially, the demonstrated destructive effect of studs on road surfaces.

States with No Restrictions

Seven states do not regulate the use of studs. Of these, Wyoming, Colorado, Vermont and New Hampshire are subject to long winters with heavy snow and ice. New Mexico and North Carolina have warmer climates but do experience heavy snow in mountainous areas. Kentucky, despite few heavy snowfalls, does allow studs.

States that Prohibit Studded Tires

Nine states allow no use of tire studs whatsoever. Drivers in the warm-weather states of Hawaii, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi have no need of them. In 4 other states that do experience hard winters, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas (in its northern plains and western mountainous areas), studs were nevertheless made illegal so as to protect roads.

States Allowing Visitors to Use Studded Tires

Wisconsin allows out-of-state cars to use studs for not more than 30 consecutive days. Minnesota allows non-resident students and workers to use studded tires.

Prohibition Only in Certain Counties

One state, Maryland, bans tire studs except in 5 mountainous counties where heavy snowfall and steep grades can make for difficult driving conditions. Tire studs are allowed in those counties only in the colder months.

States with Special Restrictions

Nebraska allows seasonal use of studded tires with a special permit. South Carolina permits their use for snow and ice, but studs are limited to 1/16-inch in length. Georgia allows studs only in snowy conditions, which would necessitate frequent tire or vehicle changes.

States with Purely Seasonal Restrictions

All the remaining states permit the use of studded snow tires only between certain dates, typically from October or November until mid-April. Of these, Alaska and Michigan allow longer use of studded tires in specified northern regions.

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