driving on roads and highways in the snowcapped mountains of California
can be a pleasant adventure or it can be frustrating, tiring and sometimes
even hazardous. The California Department of Transportation provides the
following information to help make your mountain driving safe and pleasant.
Before Heading for Snow Country:
- Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust
system are in top condition.
- Check your antifreeze and be ready for colder temperatures. You may
want to add special solvent to your windshield washer reservoir to prevent
- Check your tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and the tread
is in good condition.
Always carry traction devices. Make sure they are the proper size for
your tires and are in working order. You might want to take along a
flashlight and chain repair links. Traction devices must be installed
on the drive wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or
rear wheel drive.
- Other suggested items to carry in your car are an ice scraper or commercial
deicer, a broom for brushing snow off your car, a shovel to free you
car if it is "snowed in", sand or burlap for traction if your
wheels should become mired in snow and an old towel to clean your hands.
- It is also a good idea to take along water, food, warm blankets and
extra clothing. A lengthy delay will make you glad you have them.
- Put an extra car key in you pocket. A number of motorists have locked
themselves out of their cars when putting on traction devices and at
- Allow enough time. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter
that other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions
or icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your
- Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn
back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
- Keep windshield and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe
turnout to use a snow brush or scraper. Use the car defroster and a
clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
- Slow down. a highway speed of 65 miles an hour may be safe in dry
weather but an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice
make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled
and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead.
Bridge decks and shady spots can be icy when other areas are not. Remember
to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
- Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather
conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles that have flashing
lights, visibility may be so restricted during a storm that it is difficult
to see the slow moving equipment.
- When stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while
maintaining warmth. Be alert to any possible exhaust or monoxide problems.
- R1: Traction devices required - snow tread tires allowed.
- R2: Traction devices required.
- R3: Traction devices required - all vehicles - no exceptions.
- R1 and R2 are the most common conditions. The highway is usually closed
before an R3 condition is imposed.
Traction Device Controls
- You must stop and put on traction devices when highway signs indicate
chains are required. You can be cited by the California Highway Patrol
and fined if you don't. You will usually have about a mile between "Chains
Required" signs and the checkpoint to install your chains.
- Control areas can change rapidly from place to place because of changing
weather and road conditions.
- The speed limit when chains are required is 25 or 30 miles an hour
and will be posted along the highway.
- When you put on traction devices, wait until you can pull completely
off the roadway to the right. Do not stop in a traffic lane where you
will endanger yourself and block traffic.
- Traction device Installers: If you use the services of a traction
device installer, be sure to get a receipt and jot the installer's badge
number on it. Remember, traction device installers are independent business
people, not Caltrans employees. Having the badge number may help with
any misunderstandings later. Traction device installers are NOT allowed
to sell or rent traction devices.
- When removing traction devices, drive beyond the signs reading "End
of Chain Control" to a pull-off area where you can safely remove
Caltrans Highway Information Network
Caltrans officials urge you to check road conditions often. To help keep
abreast of changing conditions, Caltrans operates the Caltrans Highway
Information Network which motorists may telephone - 1-800-427-7623 - for
up-to-the-minute information in California and Western Nevada (Lake Tahoe/Reno
Area). The network is updated as conditions change.
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