ANCHORAGE, Alaska-Alaska has hired ``Car Talk'' radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi as official ``stud'' spokesmen in a campaign to encourage motorists to give up conventional studded snow tires. Faced with spending $5 million annually to repair stud-damaged roads, the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities was prompted to allocate $150,000 for the advertising campaign, scheduled to run during the fall and spring tire-change season.
The six 30-second radio spots tout the virtues of new lightweight studded tires and explain that the newer tires don't chew up roads and still provide traction.
The spokesmen-known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on their National Public Radio show, ``Car Talk''-answer listeners' auto service questions.
``The state of Alaska thought we would be the perfect guys to talk to you about studs,'' the brothers wisecrack on the spots that began airing in late September.
The Magliozzis also will appear on education materials outlining the problems caused by studded tire use and describing alternatives.
Ginger Johnson, a spokeswoman for the state highway department, said the Magliozzis were the perfect choice.
``We think they have a lot of credibility,'' she said. ``Before they agreed to do it, they wanted to see all our research and go over it thoroughly.''
Jim Johnson of Johnson's Tire Service in Anchorage backs the state's efforts, saying that lightweight studs provide the same traction as steel studs, but half the amount of road wear.
Mr. Johnson said he has begun carrying lightweight studs at his dealership, and though they cost him 50-percent more than conventional steel studs, he has been selling them to customers at the traditional price to encourage lightweight stud use.
Studded tires are partially to blame for ruts in the road, which contribute to unsafe driving conditions as the tires ``grab'' the ruts, according to the state DOT.
In wet weather, water builds up in the ruts causing hydroplaning; in the winter, ruts and potholes caused by studs fill and freeze, breaking down the road surface and sending pulverized road and rock dust into the air.
Using only lightweight studs and restricting their use to the core winter months can help reduce road damage, the DOT said.
The state House approved a bill last April that would allow only lightweight studs on snow tires sold in Alaska, but the measure failed to gain Senate passage before the end of the session. The bill is expected to be reintroduced in the next term.
Lightweight studs use aluminum instead of steel in the tires' gripper tips. The aluminum studs cost about $1 more per tire than the conventional steel studs.
Proponents of lightweight studs point to research in Scandinavia that show lighter studs last as long and grip as well as standard studs but cause only half as much road damage.
An outspoken lightweight stud proponent, Bruno Wessel, has waged a crusade to ensure the survival of studs and to inform dealers about lightweight studs.
About 30 percent of the snow tires used in the U.S. are studded-that equates to about 180 million studs sold each year, according to Mr. Wessel, who distributes Sitek GmbH's Roadgrip-brand studs. He said his company, Bruno Wessel Inc., is the largest distributor of tire studs in the U.S.
A total of 33 states have placed restrictions on studded snow tires, according to the Tire Industry Safety Council. Seven states in mountainous regions allow unrestricted use of metal studs and another 10 states prohibit studded tires.
Mr. Wessel contended that everyone talks about studs' effect on road wear, but ``no one talks about accidents. Tests show studs reduce accidents.''