With a big winter storm in the forecast, there’s no better place to be than Lake Tahoe. But before you make your way up into the mountains for some snow-filled fun, there’s a few things to know — including some recent changes — about chain control on the roads in California and Nevada.
1. Snow tires might not cut it on Nevada highways
Starting Winter 2018-19, the Nevada Department of Transportation has new snow safety regulations for U.S. 50 (between Glenbrook and Carson City); Nevada Route 431 (Mt. Rose Highway); and Nevada Route 207 (Kingsbury Grade).
When chain requirements are in place, vehicles will either need to have tire chains, or snow tires and be four-wheel or all-wheel drive. Previously, chains or snow tires on all vehicles would suffice. The change is in response to the more than 300 crashes that occurred on these mountain highways in the span of just three winters.
2. California highways may require chains for all-wheel/four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires
California highways have three levels of chain requirements depending on the severity of the storm. Requirement 1 (R-1) dictates that chains be on all vehicles under 6,000 pounds unless they have snow tires. R-2 says chains must be on all vehicles except four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires. R-3 mandates chains on all vehicles — no exceptions.
Though highways are usually closed before an R-3 condition is imposed, the California Department of Transportation requires all vehicles to carry traction devices in control areas.
3. Check to see if your tires qualify as snow tires
If your tire is marked on the sidewall with M+S — mud and snow — this indicates you have an all-season tire. Both California and Nevada consider this an acceptable tire for the snow. Deeper-treaded winter tires are labeled M+S, but also have an icon of a mountain with a snowflake. Summer tires lack the M+S designation.
4. Make sure you know what tires to put your chains on
For a front-wheel-drive vehicle, the chains go on the two front tires. For rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the chains must be attached to the back two tires. For four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles, put chains on all four tires.
5. Check highway conditions via online maps before you go
Though all vehicles should carry chains when heading into the mountains, it’s best not to be caught by surprise when you enter a chain control area. If you’re driving in California, check www.quickmap.dot.ca.gov. For Nevada, visit www.nvroads.com.