The finale of 2016 brought Portland some heavy bouts of snow that led to several traffic accidents throughout the city. While it’s advised to stay indoors as much as possible when road conditions are snowy, driving in thick snow may be unavoidable if you’re looking to partake in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. There are signs along the roadways leading up to Oregon’s top ski resorts warning drivers that tire chains are required. By law, drivers are required to obey the signs, but what exactly are the laws regarding tire chains? Are there any times when you would not need to put them on?
Oregon Tire Chain Laws
The Oregon Department of Transportation provides drivers with a few options to drive safely in the snow. ODOT recognizes tire chains and traction tires. The state also permits certain vehicles to use all-season radial tires or snow tires in lieu of tire chains. If you drive a vehicle with 4-wheel or all-wheel drive and use approved snow tires, you are exempt from applying chains to your vehicle, so long as your vehicle weighs under 10,000 pounds.
Vehicles under 10,000 pounds are considered “light duty vehicles” and consist of passenger cars and light trucks. Minimum chain requirements state that “chains should be on one tire on each side of the primary drive axle.” Not sure what this means? If your car has front-wheel drive, the chains should go on the front tires. Rear-wheel drive vehicles should have the chains applied to the back tires. In serious conditions, chains may be required on all four tires. If you only have two chains, you should at least know where to put the only chains you have.
Chains must also be placed on a vehicle or trailer being towed. The law defines chains as link chains, cable chains, or some other device that attaches to the outside of the tire specifically for the purpose of increasing the tire traction in icy/ snowy roads.
When towing, cars and light trucks are required to apply chains on both tires of the drive axle. If nothing is being towed, traction tires can be used instead of chains. How does Oregon define a “traction tire”? Under OAR 734-017-0005, traction tires include:
- Tires with studs, including retractable studs
- Tires marked as “mud and snow” or all-season radial tires
- Tires identified by the Rubber Manufacturers Association as meeting tests indicating the tire provides greater traction than mud and snow tires in winter driving conditions. Keep an eye out for the three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol.
Chain Requirements for Truckers in Oregon
For large commercial trucks weighing over 26,001 pounds, tire chains and studded tires are viable options. In fact, contrary to popular belief studded traction tires are legal in Oregon between November 1st and April 1st of the following year. These are acceptable on all roadways where the signs will tell you that chains or traction tires are required.
Large trucks weighing 26,0001 must adhere to specific guidelines based on the specifications of the truck. Tandem-drive axle semi-trucks must have chains on two tires on each side of the primary drive axle. For helpful diagrams of where to place your tire chains, check out ODOT’s TripCheck.com.
What if I ignore the Warnings?
Unfortunately, too many people go without applying chains to their tires or changing their summer tires to approved traction tires. When you forego safety precautions, you increase the risk of being involved or causing a winter car accident. Your car is more susceptible to spinning out and you put your own safety and that of everyone around you at risk. What’s more? Driving extra slowly up a mountain pass because you refuse to pull over to apply tire chains is extremely selfish and can cause others to attempt to pass you at times that it would be unsafe to do so.
If you are a fan of snow sports, the time to get injured is not on the way up the mountain. Drive cautiously and be considerate of those around you. If you have been injured in a Portland winter car accident, attorney Richard Rizk of RizkLaw can help you receive the settlement you deserve. Call (503) 245-5677 for a free legal consultation today.