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November 21, 2020 • by Wiener & Lambka


The recent changes in weather have necessitated the shut down recently of several mountain passes.   This adjustment in driving is something that most people in Washington are used to, but a reminder about the dangers and the need for appropriate tires and chain use is always a good idea this time of year. 

Traction tires can be a requirement to go over a mountain pass.  Not having traction tires can result in a $500.00 fine.  Moreover, this law is in place so that people do not get hurt.  Attempting to drive in snow conditions on a mountain pass without appropriate tires or chains is dangerous to yourself and others.  


From the Washington Department of Transportation website: 


The following qualify as traction tires when required on Washington roadways:


Chains and Alternatives

Those traveling into higher elevations should carry chains and have approved traction tires whenever winter weather is possible, especially Nov. 1 through March 31.

Studded tires do NOT satisfy state chain requirements; if chains are required, they’ll have to be installed on top of studded tires.


4WD/AWD and Chains

4WD/AWD vehicles (under 10,000 pounds) do not need chains installed during “chains required” notices, but drivers still must carry chains with them in case conditions worsen and they’re required to install chains during a “chains required on all vehicles” notice.


Chain Placement

Front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles
On a front-wheel-drive vehicle, you must install chains on the front two tires. On a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, you must install chains on the rear two tires.

Commercial vehicles/trailers
Consult Commercial vehicles chain requirements

Non-commercial vehicles and trailers, RVs, etc.
Vehicle, trailer, and load combinations that are under 10,000 pounds must follow regular chain requirements. If the non-commercial vehicle and trailer combined are under 10,000 pounds, the law only requires the pulling vehicle to be chained when “chains required” is posted, though drivers can install chains on both the pulling vehicle and the trailer if they wish to.

Vehicle, trailer, and load combinations that are more than 10,000 pounds must chain up when “chains required” is posted – even if 4WD/AWD. Consult Commercial vehicles chain requirements for chain placement for vehicle and trailer – which is required based on weight not type of vehicle.

Alternative traction devices

Some vehicles cannot accommodate chains and must use one of the WSP-approved “alternative traction devices” to satisfy chain requirements on vehicles with five or less axels. These textile tire covers are also called “snow socks.” For more details, visit the Washington State Patrol’s Vehicle and Equipment Requirements page under the “traction tires” section.



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