That's about right for us here in the Northeast, but I understand in the West (and particularly California), when they get those blizzards in the mountains, the CHP won't let you on the roads w/o chains.
I kinda miss the slap/slap/slap of cars with chains that I used to hear as a kid. I believe they try to get down to the bare pavement these days, which pretty much obviates the need.
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The main reason is probably radial tires and front wheel drive, both of which don't do well for conventional tire chains. There are some steel cable type of chains you see from time to time, and the local police cars had their chains on tonight, but I haven't had a set for any car I've driven in like 20 years.
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The performance of purpose-designed winter tires has gotten better as well. Remember snow tires with metal studs? There are now tires that perform as well as those (if not better) without studs in them. There are also improvements in the dry road handling of winter tires, making them more acceptable for putting them on even performance-oriented cars for the winter months. Modern winter tires are a good way to improve perfromance in the snow and ice. (Remember, you need four of them, not just two on the drive wheels.) Chains are really for only the most severe conditions and the vehicles that must get through before roads are very clear.
Just bought tire chains for my new 4wd with snow tires -- here in California the sign the Chippies put out most often reads "Chains required/4WD with snow tires OK -- carry chains" and once in a while, they actually check to see that you ARE carrying chains.
I have heard that there have even been days in the middle of summer when the "Chains Required" sign has gone up on US50 over the Sierras.
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by CrazyOne: Remember snow tires with metal studs?</font>
I had a rental in Finland only last week that had studded tyres, as apparently required there by law in snowy conditions.
This was an improvement on renting in the Alps some years ago where chains were supplied. Zero instruction about putting them on though. First snowy steep hill, half an hour messing about with the chains, let the clutch out and the chain wrapped itself tightly round the back axle. End of rental!
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by RS: Frequently from SF to Lake Tahoe one has to either have chains or a four wheel vehicle to proceed on Interstate 80. Happened just a few weeks ago. Note this link:
Between November and about April or so, this is a fairly common occurrence. In fact, all I need to do is look outside to know that it's happening now (it's raining fairly hard here, meaning the snow is nice and heavy up in the Sierra.)
Residents and frequent travelers always know to carry their chains.
[This message has been edited by nako (edited Dec 07, 2003).]
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I picked up a couple sets of tire cables two weeks ago while in PA (I couldn't find them anywhere else in the northeast). Took them back with me to Texas for those two day ice storms we get once a year.
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The fire department I work for still maintains and utilizes our snow chains for those once-a-year ice storms. In Feb. we had one...chains didn't even help really...streets were solid ice...yes, this is in Austin, Texas. It was kind of classic to see Austin Fire engines zipping around town with the chains though...
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by LIH Prem: I've never seen them not check. Are there actually times when the little 'booth' truck isn't at the 'chain required' point? </font>
In my experience (which is about one trip over the Sierra annually, during a snowstorm), no - the trucks will always be there to check to see if the vehicle has chains/snow tires, or is a 4WD.
I remember them from growing up in Reno. It always strikes me as ironic to not see them in the northeast or Great Lakes where snowfalls are much heavier. A lack of mountains makes all the difference, I guess.
Not only that, but in California, snowfalls and "Chains required" signs spawn an entire set of roadside entrepeneurs at the chain required point and the "remove chains" point. Chains on: $20, Chains off: $10. What a great service. I don't know beans about putting chains on and off correctly. I know how to pay $20 and stay in the car.
I think other states and provinces may be less strict about this than California. A couple years ago, I took a rental Chevy Malibu - FWD, all-season tires (not snow tires, let alone studded), no-chains - from Reno over to South Tahoe on US 50. It just snowed, the road was totally snow-covered, and there was a checkpoint just outside Carlson City. The NV trooper looked at the tires and let me get on. It was quite treacherous, but once a coach with chains passed me, I just followed it all the way to Tahoe, as it basically ploughed the road for me.
Another time over Colquihalla Highway between Vancouver and Kamloops, British Columbia. Totally snow covered, all-season tires, no-chains. No checkpoint, no nothing. Just electronic signs that say something like "powdery surface, chains recommended" over the 3 mountain passes. Fortunately the car is fully loaded, so pretty good traction. But a 3-hour trip became 5 hours.