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Crossing Snoqualmie Pass For The Holidays? Carry Chains

Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington state transportation officials are reminding drivers who cross Snoqualmie Pass during the holidays that they should be carrying tire chains. That applies even if they have all wheel drive vehicles. Drivers who ignore the requirements for chains face hefty fines.

Anyone who has driven over Snoqualmie Pass during the winter months understands how quickly driving conditions can change. One hour the road is bare, the next hour, conditions may have dramatically worsened and authorities require traction tires or chains.

“The majority of pass closures are usually because people have slid off or had collisions because they either don’t have the proper equipment or are going too fast for conditions. So chains and traction tires are very important,” said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe.

She says, in those situations where chains are required, drivers who don’t comply face fines ranging from $136-500. That even applies to drivers in all wheel drive vehicles, who sometimes are exempt from the cable requirement. LaBoe says a couple of times last winter and once so far this season, the state has required even those vehicles to chain up. She says even if you won't need to install them, you'll need to carry them.

She says you can use the traditional metal links or plastic interlocking cables.

“There are some vehicles these days that have low profile wheel wells and so their manufacturers suggest that they don’t use chains. There are approved alternatives and the State Patrol has a listing on their website, their traction tire alternatives. They’re sometimes called auto socks or tire socks,” LaBoe said.

As for drivers who are in rental cars whose companies forbid their customers from installing chains, she says that’s something you need to negotiate with the rental company.