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: Pack your winter car emergency kit

Winter weather has arrived in Idaho and it’s time to be Idaho Ready on the road. One way you can do that? Keep an emergency kit in your car this winter.

You want to be prepared for anything that comes your way, so here are a few things you should always have with you when traveling.

  • Flashlight — make sure the batteries work
  • Jumper cables — in case your car won’t start, or maybe you need to help someone else
  • Kitty litter can give you some traction if your tires are spinning on ice
  • Chains
  • Small shovel to dig out around your tires or tailpipe
  • Flares and a first aid kit
  • Food and water — pack high protein snacks that will fill you and your family up for a while
  • Anything to keep you warm — a blanket or a small sleeping bag, winter coat, gloves, hat, and waterproof boots
  • Ice scraper

If you run off the road, break down, or simply get stuck during a storm, these items will help keep you warm and safe until help arrives. Remember, always let someone know about your travel plans, especially if you’ll be driving through areas with no cell service. Check the latest road conditions at 511.idaho.gov before you leave.

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.

Before you go, don’t forget to pack your winter car emergency kit

Vehicles traveling in winter conditions

Of the many things that Idahoans know a lot about, one of them is how to be prepared. Prepared for the big game, prepared for the campout, and prepared for the road. Whether you’ve lived in Idaho your whole life or are a new resident, it’s important to do everything you can to prepare for an Idaho winter. As the cold weather sets in, so do winter road conditions.

So how do you prepare for Idaho winter travel? We recommend starting by calling or visiting 511.idaho.gov to check road conditions and alerting friends and family of your travel plans (especially if you are traveling through areas with poor cellular service). Take time to review a map and make sure you know your path of travel as opposed to relying solely on GPS navigation which can occasionally be incorrect. Once you’ve checked those things off your list, ensure you are prepared for whatever comes your way by packing a winter car emergency kit.

Keeping a winter car emergency kit on hand won’t just benefit you, but it could come in handy for others you come across while traveling. Here are some items we recommend you include when building your winter car emergency kit:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries to use as a light source and signal for help.
  • Jumper cables to jump your own vehicle or assist other motorists.
  • Tire pressure gauge to ensure you are driving with the optimum inflation.
  • Cat litter to use as traction on slick surfaces.
  • Small camping shovel to assist with removing snow around tires and tailpipes.
  • LED flares to alert motorists of a broken down vehicle or roadway obstruction.
  • First Aid Kit for minor injuries and emergencies.
  • High protein food and bottled water to keep you hydrated and give you energy should you be stuck for a period of time. If your food items are in cans, make sure you also have necessary items like a can opener and utensils in your kit as well.
  • Winter coats and gear such as hats, gloves, etc. to help keep your body temperature up.
  • Blanket or a small sleeping bag for warmth in freezing conditions.

Some of the items may seem excessive but if you run off the road, breakdown or simply get stranded during an extreme storm, these items will help keep you warm and safe until roadside or emergency services are able to reach you.

For those that already have a winter car emergency kit in a vehicle, make sure you do an annual check of items to ensure they are in good condition and working order – remember, food expires and batteries don’t hold their charge forever. Also, if you do find yourself stuck in the snow, don’t run your vehicle without first ensuring the tailpipe and up to three feet behind your vehicle is free of snow; this, along with opening your windows, will prevent deadly carbon monoxide from building up inside the automobile.

As a parting note, be sure to replace worn windshield wipers, keep gas in your car and have the proper tires on before driving in winter weather conditions. Keeping all of that in mind, you’ll be well on your way to being prepared for an Idaho winter.

Looking back on a historic, record-setting winter

Plow

The 2016/2017 winter and spring across Idaho will likely be remembered for its intensity on all fronts-from snow to floods to the damage left in its wake. In this edition of ITD in Motion, Jennifer Gonzalez talked to our crews on the front line about their experiences battling every challenge Mother Nature has thrown our way.