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Just follow the signs for winter driving rules

Would you folks please clarify the highway requirement: “Please carry chains or traction devices?” When the chain rule is in effect are studded tires legal? How about four-wheel traction tires? What exactly are “traction devices?”

— Larry Smith, Jacksonville

Larry, depending on the conditions, there are a number of signs or lighted messages that Oregon Department of Transportation could post, including the one you referenced above.

Just remember, black text on a white sign means it is a legal requirement, not just a recommendation, said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming.

Traction tires, in all situations, refer to studded tires, retractable studded tires or any other tire, which the tire industry deems “suitable for use in severe snow conditions” and marks with a mountain-snowflake symbol.

The snow zone signs will specify what is permissible — chains or traction tires — depending on the size of your vehicle and whether or not you are towing anything. For example, there’s one sign that reads, “Chains required, traction tires allowed on vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVW (gross vehicle weight).”

Passenger vehicles with four- or all-wheel drive are typically exempt from the chain law but  are still required to carry chains. However, when conditions are really bad on the Siskiyou Summit, ODOT may require even drivers with four-wheel drive to chain up.

“The idea is for drivers to have a level of personal responsibility,” Leaming said.

Troopers are more likely to cite commercial truck drivers than the average driver for not carrying chains, said Oregon State Police Sgt. Jeff Allison.

“But if chains are required either an ODOT worker or an OSP trooper will tell people to turn around if they don’t have chains,” he said.

“It comes down to knowing your vehicle and the rubber on your vehicle," he added.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.