You never know what the weather is going to do. Especially in Oregon. Especially in the winter. It´s hard to drive very far without encountering a mountain pass. That´s why you should always carry tire chains in your car in the winter. But I have "traction tires."
OK, it´s true that under some conditions, vehicles rated at 10,000 pounds or less and not towing or being towed may be allowed to use traction tires in place of chains, but not always. Generally, when you see a sign indicating that chains are required, here is what it means:
- Vehicles towing, being towed or rated over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW) must use chains.
- Vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less and not towing must use either chains or traction tires.
But you should be aware that sometimes the roads are so bad that everyone must use chains. That´s called a conditional closure. Under a conditional closure, no one goes through without chains, even if you´re driving a four-wheel drive with traction tires.
"Chains" include link chains, cable chains or any other device that attaches to the wheel, vehicle, or outside of the tire, which is specifically designed to increase traction in ice and snow conditions.
A "traction tire" is defined as a studded tire. Studded tires are legal in Oregon from November 1 to April 1. A "traction tire" may also be a tire that meets tests identified by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) defining the tire as suitable for use in severe snow conditions.
Tires are the single most important mechanical component to safe driving. Your ability to control your car is based upon friction with the ground beneath your wheels. The only contact you have is through the tires. Under normal conditions the contact patch is about the size of your palm. Under heavy cornering, that patch may shrink to the size of your thumbprint. Therefore the condition of your tires is critical. Even more so in winter driving. If your tire tread is getting thin, replace your tires.
Slick road conditions require that your steering, acceleration and braking be smoother. Any actions you take as a driver result in weight shift that decreases the stability of your vehicle. The harsher the action, the more weight shift occurs and the harder it is to control. So if you jerk the wheel or stab the brakes, you are much more likely to lose traction and begin to slide. Small mistakes can become big problems. So slow down, keep your eyes up and, whatever you do, do it smoothly.
Remember that it takes longer to stop on slick roads, so give yourself a break and increase your following distance.
The single most important thing to remember when driving in inclement weather is: You must slow down!
Winter brings longer hours of darkness with decreased visibility. Do you realize that if you have a headlight out, you can only see half as well as you should? If headlights are out of alignment, that also hampers your ability to see. You can´t avoid what you don´t see.
Traffic signs and roadway markers are reflectorized and can create the false impression that you can see much farther than you can. In reality, the things you see are artificially illuminated; the things you run into are not. You can´t avoid what you don´t see.
Check all your lights to be sure they are working properly. Brake lights and turn signals are there to let other drivers know what you´re going to do. Of course that doesn´t work if you forget to use the signals.
Before starting out in the morning, take the extra time to make sure your windshield is defrosted. You can´t avoid what you don´t see.