November 04, 2001 11:00 pm

Its time once again for the annual West Side vs. East Side 12-round slugfest over studded tires. In one corner is the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Oregon West Side saying that studded tires are ruining the states highways. In the other corner is the 5-foot-6, 150-pound dripping wet East Side saying studded tires are necessary for safety.

Studded tires are allowed in Oregon from Nov. 1 to April 1. Some East Side drivers unnecessarily stud up too early and cause wear and tear on our roadways. Drivers should wait if possible, keeping one eye on the weather, and take the studs off earlier in late winter if weather conditions look promising. Of course, we can get snow here just about any month of the year. But the snow generally comes and goes, and the severest of driving conditions are infrequent, unless one has to regularly traverse mountain passes.

Most eastern Oregon drivers feel safest with studs during the icy conditions of winter. But all motorists should remember that Oregon spends about $11 million a year fixing studded tire damage, almost all of it on the west side.

Drivers should consider alternatives to studded tires. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, traction tires that carry a special symbol on the sidewall showing a three-peaked mountain and snowflake meet the Rubber Manufacturers Association criteria as suitable for use in severe snow conditions.

What common sense dictates is waiting and watching the weather. Sure, some drivers will want to beat the rush of getting studded tires installed at local tire stores. And we dont want everyone to arrive there on the same Saturday, as the lines can be notoriously long. But Northeast Oregonians have a dedication to individual responsibility, and in this case that means only keeping studded tires on vehicles for the minimum amount of time. The West Side is right. We need to care for our roads.

Phone networks work

Emergency phone networks can work wonders, not only for their usual job of alerting people about fires and natural disasters. The networks can also assist in finding missing persons.

Proof is in the missing 85-year-old La Pine woman with Alzheimers disease who went for a walk last week but failed to return home. Within minutes, the emergency phone network mobilized 2,000 people. The phone system can call 2,000 people a minute and deliver a recorded message.

One person who received the call remembered seeing the woman earlier that day. He and another volunteer searched the neighborhood and found her.

What lessons can be learned from this experience? Other communities should put emergency phone networks in place. The La Pine case shows a strong sense of community, with neighbors looking out for neighbors. Thats something we need not just in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but all the time.