BISHOP — Caltrans would like to remind the traveling public to practice caution and be prepared for winter weather throughout Eastern Kern, Inyo, and Mono counties. With winter storm activity picking up for the season, motorists need to be ready for whatever conditions the weather may bring.

When visiting higher elevations, drivers are reminded to keep traction control devices, such as snow chains, in their vehicles. Even vehicles equipped with snow tires need to have traction control devices readily available as certain requirement levels will necessitate their use. Additionally, a snow duster/windshield scraper should be kept readily available to dust off any snow that may have accumulated on a vehicle. Snow and ice dropping from the top of cars, trucks, and SUVs can create hazardous conditions for other drivers on the road. Snow not removed from the top of a vehicle is considered an unsecured cargo load and can result in a traffic fine.

Caltrans recently covered this and more in a News Flash video detailing the Winter Weather Road Essentials every driver should carry when traveling during the snow and ice season. The video can be viewed on the official Caltrans YouTube channel here: Packing for Winter Travel – Caltrans News Flash #234 – YouTube.
While traveling this winter, drivers may encounter three different levels of snow chains. Those levels are:
  • Requirement 1 (R-1): Chains are required on all vehicles except passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks under 6,000 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on at least two drive wheels. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on one drive axle. Trailers with brakes must have chains on at least one axle.
  • Requirement 2 (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.
  • Requirement 3 (R-3): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.

Some vehicle models do not support the use of standard snow chains by design. Drivers of these vehicles are still required to carry traction control devices and should consult their vehicle’s owner’s manual, or the manufacturer, to find appropriate snow chain alternative.

Before heading out onto the road, drivers should check to see what type of tires are on their vehicle as they may not be required to install snow chains in lower chain requirement areas. Snow-tread tires are marked with a symbol of a mountain snowflake while mud & snow tires, which are also accepted, are marked with the letters “M+S.” However, motorists will be required to apply chains to these types of tires if there is not enough tread.

Drivers should refrain from relying on driver-assist technology when traveling in snowy and icy conditions. Many of these features use cameras to operate, and the buildup of snow, ice, and salt from the roadways can impact their ability to work. Cruise control use should be avoided as this feature is deactivated by pressing the brakes and doing so on an icy road may cause your vehicle to slide.
During snowy weather, there are a few tips drivers need to remember to stay safe on the roads. When driving in areas where chain control restrictions have been implemented, the speed limit is reduced from the posted speed limit down to 25-35 miles per hour for all vehicles. Even if chains are not required, drivers should travel at a safe speed when roads are wet, icy, or covered in snow. Caltrans would also like to remind everyone to give snowplows enough room to work. Stay at least four car lengths back from a snowplow and refrain from passing them.

Information on road closures and chain control requirements can be found on the Caltrans QuickMap app and website. QuickMap gives users the latest details on road conditions along with CHP incident information. Both the app and the website include Waze layers built directly into the program. A vital tool for any traveler, QuickMap can be accessed at or downloaded directly to your smartphone. Highway information can also be found by calling the Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623)