Winter is definitely here.and for all the fun it can provide it also means slippery, sometimes foggy roads and a lot more accidents. Caltrans is happy to offer several tips to help winter drivers cope better with often changing road conditions. While some of them may be really obvious it doesn’t hurt to repeat them. Remember, it is Caltrans that sets the chain requirements, not the California Highway Patrol. The CHP is in charge of enforcing Caltrans’ chain enforcement regulations so being angry at CHP officers is (a) useless, (b) stupid and (c) makes them mad. Not a good idea at anytime!
As a reminder there are three levels of chain control requirements that Caltrans sets and the CHP enforces:
1. R-1-Chains or snow tread tires required. Snow tires must have a tread depth of 6/32″ with a M&S imprint on the tire’s sidewall. Most tires sold today meet this qualification.
2. R-2-Chains required on all vehicles except four-wheel or all-wheel drives with snow tread tires on all four wheels. Four wheel drives must carry chains. If you have four-wheel drive, engage it. Use the “4-high” range only. Use “4-low” only if your vehicle becomes stuck.
R-3- CHAINS REQUIRED ON ALL VEHICLES. NO EXCEPTIONS!
For the most recent information use the Caltrans “Quick Map” for road conditions, road work, chain control, cameras and CHP information at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/. If you’re traveling in the Inland Empire you can also log onto: http://ie511.org/or call “511” from the Inland Empire before you leave.
IF SNOW IS ON THE GROUND……
* Drive slower, brake slower and accelerate slower;
* Leave more room between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
* If your visibility disappears due to fog do not stop in a traffic lane; look for the closest turnout.
* If chains are required you may install your own or pay one of the Caltrans permitted chain installers.
* Do not put chains on in the roadway (you’d be surprised how many people do this) and stay well off the road in a turnout or other chain control area. Do not put chains on next to the road or on the shoulder of the road, you’re too close to traffic and if they slide you may be in real danger.
* If you decide to pay to have a chain installer put the chains on your car be sure to use someone who has a Caltrans permit. They will have on a yellow bib with the official Caltrans Encroachment Permit.
* Never, ever get out to play in the snow next to traffic lanes. Because drivers can hit icy patches and slide if you are too close to the highway drivers out of control may not be able to stop in time to keep from hitting you or your passengers.
* Do not snow play in the turnouts.
* If you’re going to the snowy mountains here are some suggestions of what to bring…..read these, they could save your life. Take water, food, warm clothing, sturdy shoes or boots and necessary medications. While this may seem like a lot of “baloney” if you’re just going on a “quick trip” to the mountains this is one of those “better safe than sorry” things. People who get stuck sometimes, or even go over the side of the road, never think that’s going to happen but it does, especially on black ice or “plain old white ice.” Keep blankets in your car and have a flashlight in the glove compartment with working batteries. You might even keep an extra set of batteries in the glove compartment. If you have a cell phone make sure it’s charged before setting off for the snow and if you have a car charger make sure you have that in your vehicle.
*If your tires are bald or almost bald, stay home! Unsafe tires are an accident waiting to happen. Wait until you’ve got good tires before hitting the ski slopes or it is entirely possible that you could slip on the ice and hit another vehicle or worse yet, people.
* Black ice is particularly hard to see, especially at night, so slow down if it has just snowed because that is when black ice is most likely to form. Driving on any kind of ice is difficult and dangerous so the slower you want to go, the better.
* In the mountains snow is a challenge in and of itself but when its combined with fog it presents more issues. If you encounter fog reduce your speed, drive with your low beams only and never drive with just your fog or parking lights.
* Lower your window to listen for traffic you can’t see. You might get cold but it’s better than having a potential accident.
* Use extreme caution when crossing traffic and/or a busy intersection.
* Use your windshield wipers and defroster to help improve your visibility.
* One of the most important things is to be patient. Trying to pass other vehicles is an “accident waiting to happen.” It’s not worth the risk that another car is coming from the opposite direction that you can’t see until the accident occurs.
* If your visibility decreases to the point you can’t see, don’t stop in a traffic lane. Drive slowly until can find a turnout if you need to calm down.
* If you’re going slow but you’re holding up other traffic turn out in a turnout and wait until the vehicles have passed.