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Caltrans offers safety tips for winter driving

February 15, 2019

Caltrans urges motorists to be prepared and use caution when driving this winter. Taking action and being proactive can help reduce the risk of injury and even death on the highways during the upcoming storm. Operators of vehicles must use their best judgment in all types of weather. 

Before traveling, Caltrans recommends checking weather and road conditions. Caltrans QuickMap is an online resource with real-time traffic flow information, chain control alerts, and closure information. It is available at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ or as a Google and Apple app. Motorists can also call 511 or the Caltrans Highway Information Network at 1-800-427-7623 for travel information. Live traffic cameras can also be useful to check conditions before traveling and are available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/video/.

Winter driving tips:

Reduce your speed to match driving conditions and allow more time to reach your destination. Know that bridges and ramps may be more slippery than the roadway.

Keep your fuel tank full. Bad weather may cause long delays or closures.

Turn on your headlights to see and be seen. Be observant and maintain a safe distance behind snow removal equipment. Do not pass snow plows unless directed to do so.

When driving in fog, reduce your speed and use headlights on low-beam along with fog lights. Stay to the right along the white edge line and never stop in the road. If visibility is not adequate, pull off of the roadway when safe to do so.

Do not drive through flooded areas. Safely turn around and find another route.

If you start sliding on snow or ice, slowly take your foot off the gas pedal and steer in the direction you wish to travel. Do not lock your brakes. Pump the brakes if needed, or apply steady pressure if your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes.

Don’t use cruise control. 

Avoid in-car distractions while driving.

If you are stalled, activate your hazard signals and stay with your vehicle. Conserve fuel by periodically turning your engine on and off while maintaining warmth, but be aware of possible exhaust and carbon monoxide issues.

If you approach an emergency, maintenance, or any other vehicle stopped on the side of the road, move over when safe to do so or slow down. 

Be prepared. The following actions can help prevent vehicle failures and help if you become stranded:

Winterize your vehicle. Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, heater/defroster, and exhaust system are in good working order. Make sure fluids are topped-off, especially windshield washer fluid. 

Make sure your tires are properly inflated and always carry tire chains.

Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle with the following items: flashlight, blankets, extra clothing, water, snacks, towel, gloves, ice scraper, shovel, broom, sand, and carry a spare key on your person in case you lock yourself out of your vehicle.

All vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive or snow tires, should carry chains when traveling in snowy weather. Highway signs and QuickMap will indicate when chains are required, and drivers must stop and install chains. Motorists should pull off the roadway completely to install chains. If you need help, chain installers may be available to assist for a fee. Please note, chain installers are not Caltrans employees. They are independent business people who are licensed to install chains. Once chains are installed, obey the speed limit of 25 or 30 miles per hour, posted at various locations. 

Chain Control Information:

R-1: Chains, traction devices or snow tires with proper tread depth of 6/32” are required on the drive axle of all vehicles except four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicles.

R-2: Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles except four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread tires on all four wheels. (NOTE: Four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas.)

R-3: Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions. (NOTE: R-1 and R-2 are the most common chain controls. The highway will usually be closed before an R-3 control is imposed).

For more information on winter driving, chain controls, and additional resources, visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/cttravel/winter.html. Caltrans’ “Weathering the Storm” winter driving tips brochure is available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/winter_driving2015.pdf.