Winter driving coming; state advises preparation
October 19, 2012 · Updated 1:00 PM
It's that time of the year again – snow. Forecasts call for snow late tonight and early Saturday morning at elevations above 3,000 feet, which means those traveling over mountain passes across Washington state may see flakes on the windshield.
These first flakes are a good reminder it’s time to prepare for rain, wind, snow and ice, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Taking the time to prepare now will save time and reduce stress during the first winter storm, DOT officials say.
Here’s what drivers can do to prepare for wintry roadway conditions:
· Download, print and carry the WSDOT Winter Driving Guide at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter
· Download the WSDOT mobile app to your smartphone at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/products/
· Get your car ready and plan extra time to cross all mountain passes, including heavily-traveled routes such as Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass and White Pass.
· Carry chains and know the traction and chain requirements. Mountain-pass traction and chain requirements are available on the WSDOT website, highway advisory signs and highway advisory radio.
· Preset 530 AM and 1610 AM on your vehicle’s radio before traveling.
Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative traction devices when crossing a mountain pass requires the use of chains (see below)
Studded tires are legal for use only between Nov. 1 and March 31 in Washington state. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about tires that provide traction and are legal for year-round use.
The WSP also reminds all drivers and freight haulers that state law requires commercial vehicles and combinations of vehicles more than 10,000 pounds gross-vehicle-weight rating to carry sufficient tire chains between Nov. 1 and April 1, including some larger passenger trucks, SUVs, recreational vehicles and trucks hauling trailers.
Troopers will strictly enforce the Nov. 1 deadline. Failing to carry chains will cost heavy-truck drivers $124. When highway advisories call for chains, drivers who don’t chain up will face a $500 penalty. The WSP will have a special chain-emphasis patrol in early November to ensure drivers are carrying the appropriate number of chains, including spares.
What qualifies as a traction tire? Do mud and snow tires?
Tires labeled as all-season, all-weather, snow tire or studded (must be labeled M&S or with the mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall) qualify so long as they meet the standards set in WAC 204-24-040 Traction Devices.
When can I use studded tires?
Studded tires are approved for use from Nov. 1 to March 31. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) determines additional periods in which they can be used. Studded tires are not allowed on vehicles over 10,000 pounds. For more information see WSDOT's studded tire page at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/studtire.htm.
I drive a vehicle with studded tires. When DOT requires chains to be put on, do I need them with studded tires?
Yes. Studded tires are not a substitute for chains.
I have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. When "Chains Required" signs are posted, do I have to use chains?
No. All-wheel drive vehicles are exempt from chain requirements when all wheels are in gear and are equipped with approved traction devices, provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle. See WAC 204-24-050.