Winter Travel Laws Start Nov. 1

Check pass reports before grabbing the car keys. Failure to follow winter advisories will result in fines of up to $500.

Have you "winterized" your ride?

Drivers traveling over Washington’s mountain pass highways should carry a few extra items starting Thursday, Nov. 1. For heavy truck opperators, these accessories are a must. 

Beginning Nov. 1, state law requires commercial vehicles and vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds to carry sufficient tire chains. This law also affects some larger passenger trucks, SUVs, recreational vehicles and trucks hauling trailers that exceed 10,000 GVW.

State Patrol troopers will strictly enforce the Nov. 1 deadline. The WSP will have a special chain-emphasis patrol in early November to ensure drivers are carrying the appropriate number of chains, including spares. Scofflaws will face a $124 fine.

When highway advisories call for chains, drivers who don’t chain up will face a $500 penalty, so be sure to check the pass reports before you grab the car keys. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains, so the State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative traction devices when chain requirements are in place.

Studded tires do not meet the chain requirement and are legal for use only between Nov. 1 and March 31 in Washington. Drivers are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about tires that provide traction and are legal for year-round use.

On Mercer Island, your best bet is to contact the four local auto repair and service shops to handle your tire needs: Mercer Island Service Center, Pete's South Mercer Chevron, Mercer Island Shell and Mercer Island Chevron.

Washington state drivers of all vehicles are also required — at all times of the year — to maintain a tire-tread depth of 2/32 of an inch at a minimum.

RCW 46.37.425 requires that, among other provisions, that:

"A tread depth of less than 2/32 of an inch measured in any two major tread grooves at three locations equally spaced around the circumference of the tire, or for those tires with tread wear indicators, a tire shall be considered unsafe if it is worn to the point that the tread wear indicators contact the road in any two major tread grooves at three locations equally spaced around the circumference of the tire"

It takes just one unprepared or careless driver to slow or stop traffic. Always “know before you go” and get the most recent roadway information, winter-driving tips, car-preparation advice and information on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s winter driving website.

Here’s what drivers can do to prepare for wintry roadway conditions:

  • Download, print and carry the WSDOT Winter Driving Guide.
  • Download the WSDOT mobile app.
  • Sign up for news and social media tools such as Twitter at www.wsdot.wa.gov/inform.
  • Prepare vehicles for winter 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 web site, highway advisory signs and highway advisory radio.
  • Preset Highway Advisory Radio stations 530 AM and 1610 AM before traveling.

(Ed. Note: Information provided by WSDOT.)


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