CHP Chain Checks To Tahoe

Old Dec 10, 15, 12:38 am
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CHP Chain Checks To Tahoe

When there's chain controls, does CHP usually waive through four-wheel-drive cars like Audis and Subarus or do they pay them a little more attention than SUVs?
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Old Dec 10, 15, 8:55 am
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From the California Department of Transportation:
Road Information - Winter Driving Tips - Chain Controls

Before driving, check with the Caltrans Highway Information Network (CHIN) 800.427.7623

TYPES OF CHAIN CONTROLS:

During the winter months, motorists may encounter traction chain controls in the mountain areas within California. When chain controls are established, signs will be posted along the road indicating the type of requirement. There are three requirements in California.

Requirement One (R1): Chains, traction devices or snow tires are required on the drive axle of all vehicles except four wheel/ all wheel drive vehicles.

Requirement Two (R2): 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 Three (R3): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.
More information in the attachment.
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ChainRequire.pdf (238.2 KB, 73 views)
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Old Dec 10, 15, 1:46 pm
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I don't find they are more/less stringent with 4WD/AWD vehicles that aren't SUVs. So many "SUVs" today are car-based crossovers that the lines are pretty blurred. Additionally, not all SUVs are actually 4WD/AWD, so they need to verify everything.

I have experienced that they are quite strict during R1/R2 conditions to verify that you do have M+S tires and that you are carrying the correct chains. I read somewhere that folks used to just toss a set of chains in the trunk to try and get waved through. Now, I think they will verify those are the proper chains for your tires.
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Old Dec 10, 15, 9:09 pm
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It's my understanding that on the major east-west highways (I80, US50, SR88) the Highway Patrol doesn't use R3 -- the next step after R2 is "closed."
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Old Dec 11, 15, 11:23 am
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I was stopped without chains in a volvo awd and was only let past because I was only going about 1 mile past the checkpoint.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 4:10 pm
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
It's my understanding that on the major east-west highways (I80, US50, SR88) the Highway Patrol doesn't use R3 -- the next step after R2 is "closed."
That's why it makes so little sense that they require chains for the AWD cars with M+S tires. You almost never see R3 on those major highways.
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Old Dec 12, 15, 8:42 pm
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Originally Posted by dhuey View Post
That's why it makes so little sense that they require chains for the AWD cars with M+S tires. You almost never see R3 on those major highways.
But you do see it on roads leading away from the major highways, which justifies the requirement.

I have personally seen R3 at least once on one of those side roads. It was on SR267 heading south from I80. That road heads uphill before going back down to lake level. However, no one was checking there.
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Old Dec 13, 15, 1:06 pm
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
But you do see it on roads leading away from the major highways, which justifies the requirement.

I have personally seen R3 at least once on one of those side roads. It was on SR267 heading south from I80. That road heads uphill before going back down to lake level. However, no one was checking there.
Still, I don't see what is so different about winter driving in the mountains compared to winter driving in places like the Upper Midwest, where there aren't any chain requirements I'm aware of. Sierra storms often produce more snow that a typical Midwestern storm, but it's largely the same driving conditions in my experience.
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Old Dec 13, 15, 2:16 pm
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Perhaps because they are talking about California and not the Midwest. The average driver in California, or specifically to the national parks and other mountain resort areas, tend to be inexperienced in snow and particularly mountain snow driving. Every winter, CHP and county LEOs respond to many, many emergency situations resulting from unprepared drivers confronting dangerous conditions for which many are unprepared. The legislature has taken steps to limit such over-extension of limited emergency resources by requiring a minimum level of preparation. As a retired LEO, I think that is a very good thing. We simply don't have the resources to be pulling clueless newbies out of ditches and up cliffs because they didn't have chains or other proper equipment for conditions.
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Old Dec 13, 15, 3:14 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
Perhaps because they are talking about California and not the Midwest. The average driver in California, or specifically to the national parks and other mountain resort areas, tend to be inexperienced in snow and particularly mountain snow driving.
I used to think the same way about this matter. Then a few years ago, I was driving in a snowstorm in my hometown of Milwaukee. I was amazed at how inappropriately fast most people were driving, given the hazardous conditions.

So yes, your average Midwestern driver has more experience with winter driving than a typical Californian, but it might be that the Midwesterners lose that safety advantage by upping their speed. Reminds me of studies that when additional safety features are added to cars (multiple air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control), drivers then take more risk than they did before. It's as though we have a certain safety target.

Regardless, what I think doesn't matter on this issue: if CHP is checking for chains, you must have chains or you won't get through.
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Old Dec 14, 15, 4:03 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
Perhaps because they are talking about California and not the Midwest. The average driver in California, or specifically to the national parks and other mountain resort areas, tend to be inexperienced in snow and particularly mountain snow driving. Every winter, CHP and county LEOs respond to many, many emergency situations resulting from unprepared drivers confronting dangerous conditions for which many are unprepared. The legislature has taken steps to limit such over-extension of limited emergency resources by requiring a minimum level of preparation. As a retired LEO, I think that is a very good thing. We simply don't have the resources to be pulling clueless newbies out of ditches and up cliffs because they didn't have chains or other proper equipment for conditions.
I think the CHP is at their most conservative on the Grapevine part of I5, and deservedly so. My entirely unscientific impression is that this gets shut entirely even before R2 is reached.
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Old Dec 14, 15, 5:55 pm
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
I think the CHP is at their most conservative on the Grapevine part of I5, and deservedly so. My entirely unscientific impression is that this gets shut entirely even before R2 is reached.
This makes sense because it's a whole bunch of us random Angelenos heading to who knows where. San Francisco?

People are likely quite ill-prepared.

I think it's a bit different than when I've been on the 395 going to/from Mammoth because there you have a larger crowd that is specifically going "to the mountain"
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Old Dec 19, 15, 1:07 am
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CHP came up with this Grapevine brochure: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist6/opsnowflake/guide.pdf

The Grapevine goes straight from open to closed - no chain control. Same with Cajon Pass, although the Tehachapi Pass (SR-58) does have the chain control signs ready, in my recollection (they are turned to the side when chains are not required).
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Old Dec 20, 15, 2:49 pm
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Originally Posted by dhuey View Post
Still, I don't see what is so different about winter driving in the mountains compared to winter driving in places like the Upper Midwest, where there aren't any chain requirements I'm aware of. Sierra storms often produce more snow that a typical Midwestern storm, but it's largely the same driving conditions in my experience.
Mountains is the key word.

There are no chain requirements in Michigan and Minnesota (parts of the midwest where I spent many many winters) because they're close to dead flat. And where they're not dead flat, cars pile up at the bottom of hills-- for example, when I lived in Ann Arbor at the corner of State and Hill, there was a memorable day when cars were literally sliding down the hill (which isn't much of a hill) and piling up. It happens on Mount Royal in Montreal, too, which is otherwise pretty much dead flat. Cars do slide all over the place in those places, but they don't slide off the edges of mountains or pile up at the bottom of the slopes. Mountain roads in California have edges that you can slide off of (and plenty of people do it in good weather) and can be hard to get emergency vehicles to, even if you're just stuck at a low point on the road rather than off the edge.

As far as I know, traction devices (studs and chains) are prohibited on public roads in Michigan because they tear up the roads.
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Old Dec 20, 15, 2:57 pm
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Having learned to drive in the snow in a terrible rear wheel drive car in the mountains on the east coast it was super weird to find out that I needed chains for my car when I moved to California. That lasted all of one winter before I switched to all wheel drive and M+S tires.

None of this will make up for a lack of driving ability. Last April while driving in Yosemite it started to snow at Crane Flat and traffic was a total mess because some clown had decided to roll their Subaru Forester onto its roof in 1/2" of snow. How they managed to do that is a mystery to me...
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