Idaho Ready: What you need to know about the chain up law

In extreme winter weather, chains can be a helpful tool to keep you safe while driving on slushy or snow covered roads. But are they required in Idaho?

Idaho’s chain up law does not apply to most drivers on the road, or even most places you drive.

The law only applies to commercial vehicles over 26,000 pounds on mountain passes, most notably on I-90 east of Coeur d’Alene and on US-12 at the Montana border.

This can be confusing, as chain laws vary by state. Neighboring states, like Washington, may require passenger vehicles without AWD or four-wheel drive use chains during the harshest of conditions.

In Idaho, chains are only required when conditions will prevent large vehicles from traversing grades without them, and the requirement is lifted as soon as possible to limit damage to the road. Operators with the Idaho Transportation Department activate special roadside signs alerting truck drivers to chain up as needed during the winter.

Some commercial vehicles, like logging trucks, tow trucks, and school buses are exempt from the law.

If the chain up law is in effect, then all drivers should be prepared for snowy conditions. Stay on top of road conditions or closures by visiting 511.idaho.gov or downloading the Idaho 511 app.

 

Idaho Ready: Winter driving insight from ITD’s snow plow operators

In Idaho you have to be prepared for all sorts of winter weather, and that means being Idaho Ready to drive safely. The Idaho Transportation Department wants drivers to have the knowledge and resources to do that, before they hit the road. Read the messages below to gain some winter driving insight from ITD’s own snow plow operators.

It’s time to be Idaho Ready for winter driving

As winter weather arrives in Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department has launched its annual winter safety campaign, “Idaho Ready.”

The campaign aims to help drivers prepare for challenging conditions on the state’s highways, offering tips and resources to stay safe before drivers hit the road. Short videos, blog posts, and photos will be posted weekly to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and online at itd.idaho.gov/travel.

So, are you Idaho Ready for winter driving? Here are a few tips to help you stay safe on the road.

First, check road conditions before you leave! Visit 511.idaho.gov or download the Idaho 511 app to look at weather reports and cameras across the state.

Be prepared. Keep an emergency kit with food, water, and a blanket in your car.

If roads are wet or icy, slow down and give yourself plenty of stopping room.

Pay attention to the outside temperature. When it’s near freezing, ice can form quickly, and when gaining elevation, wet roads can change to ice in just a few miles. Even when the temperature is above freezing, shaded roadways can be slick. Take it easy on overpasses and bridges too. These are the first to freeze when temperatures drop.

Snow tires and chains can help keep you moving, but be sure to practice installing your chains so you know how to use them.

When roads are slick, turn your cruise control off. If you start to slide, regain control by taking your foot off the gas and slowly turning your wheel in the direction of the skid. Try not to overcorrect, and do not slam on the brakes.

If you encounter a snow plow, slow down and make room. The safest place is behind the plow. Never pass on the right.

Please wear your seatbelt, stay engaged, and drive for the conditions. Be sure to follow along online with ITD this winter so you are always Idaho Ready.

Road Closed…What?!

You planned a fun ski trip for the last 3 months across the other side of the state. You get ready to head out the door and check the weather for your route. You’re expecting snow but as of right now roads look fine. You have a 5 plus hour drive to get to the ski resort if all goes well. It’s 4 pm on a Thursday and you start your journey east to the mountains, if all goes well you’ll be there by 9 pm. A few hours into your drive the weather takes a little turn, the snow is coming down a little heavier, temperatures start to drop and the wind is now beginning to blow pretty hard. You start driving a little slower and about 70 miles from the ski resort your travels have now become white knuckle driving.

Only 55 miles left to go, you are a little edgy and just want to get to the resort and off the icy roads. You start on one of the local highways headed East to the mountain and about 45 minutes from the resort you drive up to a road closure on the highway. Saying some choice words at this point and thinking you can make it because you’re so close you stop behind a semi waiting the storm out at the block. You step out and realize its dang cold and windy, so you get back in your car and bundle up to stay warm. You get back out of your car and walk up to the gentleman sitting at the road block.

Dying to drive past the road block and get to the resort you ask him the infamous question…why is the road closed? The man tells him it is very low visibility, the 5 foot snow drifts are completely across the road and the crews cannot keep up with them as the wind is already at 45 mph. A little upset, you now follow-up with another question…when will the road be open? Can I just drive through, I’m sure I can make it?!

Of course the answer will always change as to when a road will be open as that is completely on a situational basis but the man tells you it will be open as soon as the weather cooperates and they can break though so maybe tomorrow night. He also proceeds to say that you cannot drive through the road block. Quite upset at this point because this totally messed up your weekend ski trip, you turn around and decide to stay in a hotel nearby to wait out the storm in hopes the road will open soon. Instead of driving passed the road block you make a wise choice to wait it out.

Has this scenario ever happened to you before where you drove up to a road closure due to the weather? If you live in Idaho, it most likely has happened to quite a few of you. It’s frustrating, it’s inconvenient and trust us when we say we totally understand!

Many travelers wonder why we close roads during the winter weather season…There’s many reasons actually! In severe weather road conditions our number 1 reason is low-visibility. ITD crews make numerous passes on our roadways and if they cannot see well they determine it is unsafe for motorists. Secondly, if the wind is blowing too hard then the snow drifts become uncontrollable. Once the snow drifts become unmanageable and the crews cannot keep up with them, this is also an indicator to close a road.  Some other reasons would be severe black ice on the roadways and heavy snowfall that is impassable. Also, in the mountain passes typically the road might be closed due to avalanches.

When crews close a road, it is closed for a good reason…to keep motorists safe! ITD and ISP do not like to close roads due to the weather, we would prefer keep roads open to keep traffic flowing but that is not the case all of the time. Here’s some food for thought…when coming up to a road block and you get the urge to drive past it and continue on know that per Idaho Code 19-623 it is up to a $300 fine, a possible misdemeanor and possible imprisonment in county jail.

So when you drive up to a road block next time, we recommend to simply turn back and stay in a safe place until the road becomes open again. Our #1 goal is safety for the travelling public and ourselves!

Roads will only close for you and your family’s safety and we want to create the safest travel possible. Be sure to drive for the conditions, plan ahead, be prepared, stay engaged, and visit 511.idaho.gov before you go for current road updates. Dont forget to check out ITD’s road closure video!