Washington Chains

By December 11, 2018Blog Posts

Monday, December 10, 2018

Chain-up or pay up this winter on Snoqualmie Pass

By Meagan Lott

‘Tis the time of year when holiday lights go up, Mariah Carey lets us know what she wants for Christmas, and snow falls on our mountain passes. And while snow can make for a beautiful sight, it can also make for challenging driving conditions.

That’s right, it’s time to break out your tire chains!

Unfortunately, many drivers crossing snowy mountain passes either don’t carry chains despite it being required by law, or don’t put them on. For the past several years, more than half of the closures on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass have been due to vehicles ignoring a chain-up requirement and then getting into collisions and blocking lanes.

Chaining up when required on Snoqualmie Pass is vital for everyone’s safety, and failing to do so can result in a hefty fine.

This winter we are working with the Washington State Patrol, which will be enforcing chain requirements during winter storms and inclement weather on Snoqualmie Pass. If you don’t chain-up, you will have to pay up. Ignoring the chain requirements could cost you $500. It’s a stiff penalty, but this is really important. When collisions block lanes on the pass, we have to close the roadway in order to get emergency personnel and tow trucks to the scene. This is much more challenging to do on a mountain pass highway than on a regular highway, and it can take hours. Not only does it take a long time, but it’s a huge inconvenience to the more than 30,000 vehicles that travel across Snoqualmie Pass every day.

So, this is a great time to remind you what the requirements are:

  • Vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or greater – including some large SUVs and RVs – must install chains when traction tires are required.
  • All vehicles, except 4WD and AWD, must put on chains when tire chains are required. However, 4WD and AWD vehicles still need to carry chains in order to proceed across the pass. 
  • All vehicles including 4WD and AWD need to put on chains when chains are required on ALL vehicles.

What if your car has smaller wheel wells and can’t take chains? Or the manufacturer doesn’t recommend chains? Well, you are in luck. The State Patrol has compiled a list of approved alternatives you will need to use in place of chains. Not every “tire sock” chain alternative is approved as meeting our state standards, so check the WSP list before you make a purchase.

As always we have a great online toolkit to help prepare you for travel this winter as well as our communications tools to use before you head out the door or while you’re on the road:

So remember if you’re heading over Snoqualmie Pass this winter, make sure you and your vehicle are prepared to travel in the ice and snow and you understand and follow the chain requirements.