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Time to trade those sunglasses and sandals for ice scrapers and chains

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Date:  Friday, October 25, 2013

Contact: Alice Fiman , WSDOT Communications, 360-705-7080 (Olympia)

OLYMPIA – As state highway crews shift into winter gear, they have a few words of advice for drivers: be prepared and slow down.

Those simple words of wisdom could be the difference between a long wait on the highway or more time for family and fun.

“The last thing we want to do is see a car in the ditch,” said Mike Krahenbuhl, maintenance supervisor on Interstate 90 at Hyak. “That usually means the driver was going too fast or had to avoid someone else going too fast.”

Krahenbuhl has spent more than 40 years clearing snow and ice from Washington’s roadways. He said it takes just one person driving too fast or forgetting to prepare their vehicle for cold weather to cause a chain-reaction collision.

And it’s not just in the mountains, said Monty Mills, snow and ice program manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“Prepare your car and prepare yourself for the conditions you will be driving into,” said Mills. “When the temperature drops, drivers all over the state need to be ready. We’re working to keep the highways open but need drivers’ help.”

WSDOT asks drivers to always “know before you go” and get the most recent roadway information, winter-driving tips, car-preparation advice and information on the department’s winter driving Web page.

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 for smartphones.
  • Sign up for news and social media tools, such as Twitter at www.wsdot.wa.gov/inform.
  • Get your car ready 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 current traction and chain requirements. Mountain-pass traction and chain requirements are available on the WSDOT website, highway advisory signs and highway advisory radio.
  • Preset 530 AM and 1610 AM on your vehicle’s radio before traveling.

Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative traction devices that are acceptable when chains or traction tires are required.

Studded tires are legal for use only between Nov. 1 and March 31 in Washington state. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about tires that provide traction and are legal for year-round use.

The WSP also reminds all drivers and freight haulers that state law requires commercial vehicles and combinations of vehicles more than 10,000 pounds (GVW) rating to carry sufficient tire chains between Nov. 1 and April 1, including some larger passenger trucks, SUVs, recreational vehicles and trucks hauling trailers. Failing to carry chains could lead to a $124 fine for heavy-truck drivers.

When highway advisories call for chains, drivers who don’t chain up will face a $500 penalty. The WSP will have a special chain-emphasis patrol to ensure drivers are carrying the appropriate number of chains, including spares.

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WSDOT keeps people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state's transportation systems. To learn more about what we're doing, go to http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/news/ for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/ or by dialing 511.


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