With some early storms already here and full-fledged winter fast approaching, now is the time for travelers to make sure they’re prepared for winter driving.
The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to start preparing themselves and their vehicles for winter weather. 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 work hard to keep roads clear, but we need the public’s help as well,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to preventable spin outs or crashes from vehicles driven too fast or not having proper equipment. This year COVID-19 protocols could mean slightly longer road or pass closures, as well as more chain requirements during major storms, so we need everyone to be prepared and stay informed to help keep traffic moving.”
To check conditions and prepare for winter 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 – text alerts about Snoqualmie Pass delays is a subscription option.
- Download, print and carry the WSDOT Winter Driving Guide (pdf 2mb).
- Get your vehicle ready (pdf 1.1mb) 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, 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
Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, that doesn’t excuse travelers from state traction device laws. These requirements exist to help keep all traffic moving safely during extreme winter conditions.
The Washington State Patrol provides an online list of state-approved alternative traction devices on its vehicle equipment webpage under “traction tires” These approved alternatives meet state traction tire requirements. All travelers are reminded to prepare for changing weather conditions and avoid a costly ticket by carrying chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes. 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, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist.
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 their options, including stud-free, winter tread traction tires. This type of tire is different than an all-season tire, is legal year-round and does 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.