Here are our Top 5 Tips for Driving in the Snow

So you’re planning a last minute winter getaway and are feeling confident because your vehicle already has winter tires with a 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol or M&S rating. Does this mean they’ll be enough to keep you safe regardless of the road conditions? The short answer is, it depends. For a quick recap on winter tire ratings, check out our December blog. While certain winter tires will provide better traction in snowy/icy conditions, the chances are, you’ll also need tire chains on at least two or your tires for additional traction on icy or snow-covered roads, to reduce the risk of an accident.

Check your local state guidelines on chain tire usage before heading out on the road.

Different states have varying regulations on whether or not to use snow chains or cables in snowy/icy conditions and some adjust their regulations according to specific months in the year and stretches of road. In some instances, you aren’t allowed to use snow chains because they might damage the pavement and winter tires are considered enough. In other states, you may be fined if you don’t put chains on within a mile of a sign that indicates you need them. The general rule of thumb is to check the rules according to your state before heading out into snowy conditions and stay up-to-date on weather fluctuations. And if you live in a state that requires snow chains or cables, be sure to purchase them and do a trial run beforehand so that you’re not left fumbling around in cold weather with patchy WIFI, unsure of if you installed them correctly. These are just a couple of our winter driving tips. Check out our five snow driving safety tips in more detail below, and review before heading out on a winter adventure!

1. Check your local chain/cable requirements: This website is a good place to start. Alongwith checking whether chains are required, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the local ratings (if any). For instance, in CA there is an R rating that indiciates whether or not chains are needed depending on type of vehicle and weather conditions. The rating are as follows:

Caltrans Chain Control Requirement Levels:

R-0: No Restrictions

R-1: Chains or snow tread tires required. Snow tires must have a tread depth of 6/32″ with an M&S imprint on the tire’s sidewall.

R-2: Chains required on all vehicles, except four-wheel drives or all-wheel drives with snow tread tires on all four wheels. Four-wheel drives must carry chains in the vehicle. If you have four-wheel drive, engage it. Use 4-Low only if your vehicle becomes stuck.

R-3: Chains required on all vehicles, no exceptions.

These ratings are very specific and are a great guide, whereas in other states, they might have more generic guidelines. For instance in Arkansas, the website simply states: “The use of tire chains are allowed when required for safety during a time of snow, ice, or another condition that might cause slippery highways.” In cases like these, you’ll need to use your own discretion. 

2. Purchase snow chains or cables beforehand: Once you’ve figured out what your local requirements are, be sure to purchase chains ahead of time. While you may be able to purchase chains or cables closer to the town you are driving to, they may not have the specific ones you need in stock, especially if conditions worsen quickly, so it's always better to visit your local auto parts store ahead of time and learn how to put them on your vehicle before leaving town. For a guide on how to install chains: Check out this clip.

3. Keep a set of chains or cables in the trunk at all times: As mentioned earlier, since snow chains or cables might be hard to purchase if conditions worsen quickly, it’s best to keep a set in the trunk so that they’re ready to go. Some local requirements specify that you should carry them at all times regardless of whether you’ll need them or not. 

4. Keep a list of all the local weather websites and radio stations for updates: A quick Google search should generate a list of some real-time websites that service the area you're traveling to. Setting up the radio station ahead of time is especially important in case you can’t get service on your celphone. An example of a real-time weather website for Big Bear Mountain is KBHR Big Bear News.

5. Have an emergency plan: Along with packing emergency supplies such as what’s listed in this emergency kit, be sure to let a loved one know (who’s not accompanying you on the trip) the cordinates of where you’ll be traveling to in case you have an accident and have no service on your cell phone; this way emergency services will be able to narrow down the search area which will hopefully make it easier to find you. 

While winter and snow driving requires more preparation than most local getaways, it will be worth following this checklist for peace of mind. Chances are you won’t even need to use the snow chains, let alone an emergency kit, but you’ll feel more confident on your trip knowing you have everything on board, should you fall into one of aforementioned categories.