The falling leaves and colder weather can mean only one thing – snow and ice are just around the corner. With the changing seasons, now is the perfect time for travelers to shift their focus towards winter driving.
The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to start preparing themselves and their vehicles well before the threat of snow and ice kicks into high gear. Drivers can check out WSDOT’s winter driving web page for tips and information. WSDOT also asks travelers to always “know before you go” and get the most up-to-date roadway information before heading out.
“Our crews are ready for winter and work hard to keep roads clear of snow and ice,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “But we also need the public’s help in being prepared for winter weather. Most of the pass closures we see are due to spin outs or crashes from a vehicle traveling too fast or not having proper winter driving equipment.”
To check conditions and prepare for adverse weather:
- Download the WSDOT mobile app.
- Follow WSDOT’s regional and pass accounts on Twitter, the agency’s Facebook site and online travel alerts.
- Sign up for email and/or text updates about road conditions – including Snoqualmie Pass delay text alerts.
- Download, print and carry the WSDOT Winter Driving Guide (pdf 1.83 mb).
- Get your vehicle ready (pdf 2 mb) 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 current traction and chain requirements for mountain passes, which are also available on highway-advisory signs and highway-advisory radio and by calling 511.
- Preset your radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for WSDOT’s traffic-information stations.
Alternatives to chains
Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models – but that doesn’t exempt travelers from state laws about extra traction devices. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative-traction devices (pdf 133 kb) that meet state chains and traction tires requirements. All travelers are reminded to carry chains whenever crossing mountain passes to be prepared for changing weather conditions and potentially avoid a costly ticket. Failure to obey a tire chains sign can mean a ticket of up to $500. Special chain enforcement patrols will be keeping an eye on mountain passes this winter.
By law, studded tires are legal for use in Washington state only from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states.
WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned asphalt and concrete roadways each year. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about stud-free, winter tread traction tires. These type of tires are different than all-season tires, are legal year-round and do not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires. More information about studded-tire restrictions and requirements can be found in the FAQ on the WSP website.