Winter 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
- Check your antifreeze and be
ready for colder temperatures. You may want to add special
solvent to your windshield washer reservoir to prevent icing.
- Check your tires. Make sure they
are the properly inflated and the tread is in good condition.
- Always carry chains. Make sure
they are the proper size for your tires and are in working
order. You might also want to take along a flashlight and
chain repair links. Chains must be installed on the drive
wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear
- 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 your car
if it's "snowed in", sand or burlap for traction if your
wheels should become mired in snow and an old towel to clean
- 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 your
pocket. A number of motorists have locked themselves out
of their cars when putting on chains and at ski areas.
- Allow enough time. Trips to the
mountains can take longer during winter than other times
of year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or
icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to
reach your destination.
- 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
55 mile 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
- Be more observant. Visibility
is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down
and watch for other vehicles and for snow equipment. Even
though snow removal vehicles 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: Chains required - snow tread
R2: Chains required on all vehicles except four-wheel drives
with snow tires.
R3: Chains required - all vehicles - no exceptions.
- R1 and R2 are the most common
conditions. The highway is usually closed before an R3 condition
- You must stop and put on chains
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
- The speed limit when chains are
required is 25 or 30 miles and hour and will be posted along
- When you must put on chains,
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.
- Chain Installers: If you use
the services of a chain installer, be sure to get a receipt
and jot the installer's badge number on it. Remember, chain
installers are independent business people, not Caltrans
employees. Having the badge number may help with any misunderstandings
later. Chain installers are NOT allowed to sell or rent
- When removing chains, drive beyond
the signs reading "End Chain Control" to a pull-off area
where you can safely remove them.
Caltrans Highway Information
Caltrans officials urge you to check road conditions often.
To help keep you 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.
The network is updated as conditions change.