Driving During the Winter Season, Chains

Practice putting on snow chains before going into the snow.

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 storms set to arrive beginning tomorrow, 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 keep these on hand as certain requirement levels will necessitate their use. There are three levels of chain requirements drivers need to be aware of:


Driving During the Winter SeasonRequirement 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 alternatives.

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” and “s.” However, motorists will be required to apply chains to these types of tires if there is not enough tread.

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Snow Assist

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.

A snow duster/windshield scraper should be kept readily available and used 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.

In the event of an extended delay, it’s suggested drivers keep the following supplies on hand:

  • Snacks and water
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries for flashlight
  • Phone charger
  • Jumper cables
  • Kitty litter or sand (for tire traction when stuck)
  • First aid kit
  • Small shovel
  • Extra set of warm clothes/blankets
  • Extra medication
  • Full tank of gas

S-L-O-W D-O-W-N when driving on icy roads or in snow!

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.

QuickMap los angeles lane closures 376x186 1Information on road closures, chain control requirements, and potential high wind advisories 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 quickmap.dot.ca.gov or downloaded directly to your smartphone.

California Road Conditions Phone


Highway information can also be found by calling the Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623)

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