What You Need to Know About Chain Control

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is alerting motorists that a significant storm is on its way to San Bernardino and Riverside counties beginning late Wednesday afternoon through Friday, December 25 through 27. When you go to Disneyland you buy a ticket. When you go to the beach you bring sunscreen. When you go to the mountains you will need chains! The most common reason for road closures during chain control is due to motorists who do not have chains on their vehicle.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is now predicting up to 40 inches of snow in the higher elevations of Big Bear, approximately two to four inches of snow on I-15 in the Cajon Pass and High Desert, and 18-24 inches of snow in Wrightwood. Below are tips for driving to mountain destinations throughout the Christmas and New Year holiday.

  • Bring chains! You will NOT be permitted without them.
  • Weather conditions change rapidly – be aware that even though there was no chain control when you began your trip, this can change due to the storm and road conditions. Bring chains!
  • Never install chains in the roadway – use designated turnouts.
  • Use the Caltrans permitted chain installers – they are there to assist you to apply your chains for a minimal fee.
  • Make sure your chains fit your tires – BEFORE you travel up or down the mountain.
  • The speed limit during chain control is 25 miles per hour.
  • If you abandon your vehicle in the roadway your vehicle will be towed. Be prepared to pay $300-$600 to retrieve your vehicle once it is towed.
  • Check chain control requirements before you leave! http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/.
  • Be advised that highways can close without notice due to the storm event.

When highway signs indicate that chains are required, you must stop and install chains at designated chain installation areas/turnouts or risk being cited and fined. Do not stop in traffic lanes where you can endanger yourself and others. Don’t crowd the plow! Motorists who block snow plows or roadways can be cited. Motorists who try to pass Caltrans equipment while they are working can be cited.

Types of Chain Controls
When chain controls are established, signs on the affected routes will be visible to motorists. There are three requirements in California.

  • (R1) Chains OR snow tires are required. Snow tires must have a tread depth of 6/32” with a “M & S” imprint on the tire’s sidewall.
  • (R2) Chains required on all vehicles except four-wheel drives or all-wheel devices with snow tread tires on all four wheels. Four-wheel drives must carry chains. If you have four-wheel drive – engage it. Use the “4-high” range only. Use “4-low” only if your vehicle becomes stuck.
  • (R3) Chains are required on all vehicles – NO exceptions.

Urban freeways and routes are subject to flooding during heavy downpours or extended periods of rain. Avoid hydroplaning and steer clear of flooded highway lanes. Oil and other vehicle fluids can be slippery during rain so reduce your speed and leave plenty of space between your vehicle and others. Never try to drive through debris flows, flooded roads or standing water – Turn Around Don’t Drown. Do not drive past “Road Closed” signs and always follow commands and instructions from Caltrans personnel, CHP/law enforcement and emergency responders.

Winter driving tips can be found at http://dot.ca.gov/cttravel/winter.html. Chain control information can be found at http://dot.ca.gov/cttravel/chain-controls.html.

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