Driving: Getting traction in winter
If you do much winter driving in Oregon, you’ve probably seen the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) SNOW ZONE signs that tell you the current requirements for chains or traction tires. But do you know what they mean? Here’s a primer.
Drivers who disobey SNOW ZONE signs are subject to a class C traffic infraction.
During severe weather, ODOT may require all vehicles to use chains. This is known as a conditional road closure.
Chains include any device that attaches to the wheel, vehicle, or outside of the tire, that is designed to increase traction on ice and snow.
Traction tires are studded tires or other tires that are suitable for use in severe snow conditions. These tires are marked with a mountain/snowflake emblem on the sidewall like this:
Studs must be made of a rigid material that wears at the same rate as the tire tread and must extend at least 0.04 inch but not more than 0.06 inch beyond the tread surface. Studded tires are legal for use in Oregon from Nov. 1 to April 1. For information on tires that are suitable for use in severe snow conditions, contact your tire dealer.
A four-wheel or all-wheel drive passenger vehicle is exempt from ODOT’s chain requirements if all of the following are true:
- It has an unloaded weight of 6,500 pounds or less.
- It is operated to provide power to both the front and rear wheels.
- It is carrying chains.
- It has mud-and-snow, all-weather radial, or traction tires on all of its wheels.
- It is not towing another vehicle.
- It is not being operated in a manner or under conditions that cause the vehicle to lose traction.