New York State Laws for Studded Tires

closeup of the tread of two different studded winter tires
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New York state, particularly the upstate area, is known for its abundant snowfall during the winter season. The state averages about 55 inches of snow per year. Western New York cities, like Buffalo and Rochester, may experience as much as 100 inches annually.

The Empire State allows motorists to use studded tires, but they are restricted by date. Snow tires have no such restriction, but keeping them on year-round can cause tire tread to wear out sooner.

What Are Studded Tires?

Tires can easily grip a dry road, but ice and snow make a tire’s traction unreliable, even on roads that are well-paved. Outside of a city’s limits, rural dirt roads or roads that have been unattended to for decades can be even more dangerous to drive on in winter driving conditions, as tires can lose their grip. When that occurs, the driver may lose control of their vehicle.

During winter in New York, drivers often use studded tires, snow tires or tire chains to make their journeys safer.

When a driver encounters ice or packed snow, studded tires provide the best traction. The metal studs in the tires are lightweight spikes staggered across their tread – the tire studs break through ice and snow to improve the vehicle’s traction.

Restrictions on Studded Tires in New York State

States that allow studded tires typically restrict their use. Most tire regulations allow studded tires beginning in October or November and ending in March or April. However, some states base their use on weather-related restrictions – they allow studded tire use only during conditions of snow or ice instead of on a specific time of the year.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires studded tires to be used on roads from October 16 through April 3o. The DMV also suggests that vehicle owners inspect their tires frequently during winter.

They should check the tire pressure when the vehicle hasn’t been driven for at least three hours and check often for insufficient tread or uneven wear. Additionally, vehicle owners should never combine radial and non-radial tires on the same car.

Differences Between Studded Tires and Snow Tires

Depending on the circumstances, studded tires may offer a greater safety advantage in winter weather conditions. However, they are limited as to their application and may offer less traction than studless snow tires, also called winter tires. Studless tires work better in packed snow and slush.

While there are no specific restrictions on when a driver can use snow tires, putting them on a vehicle around the same time that the law allows studded tires is a good guide. Keeping snow tires on the vehicle all year, however, will cause excessive wear on the tires and damage them.

When to Use Tire Chains in New York State

New York State permits tire chains in hazardous road conditions as long as they do not not damage the highway’s surface. When the state or a local government designates a specific street or highway as a snow emergency route, the vehicles traveling on it are required to have chains or snow tires. However, the state does not mandate the number of chains that a vehicle should have or how they are placed.