Winter driving in Lake Tahoe

Go slow and go easy on the brakes. Lake Tahoe winters can bring extreme weather conditions that can change in the course of minutes. Motorists can be faced with fog, blowing snow and white outs, black ice, hard-packed icy roads, berms and snow removal equipment.

Caltrans and the Nevada Department of Transportation do their best to tackle the roads around Lake Tahoe with road technicians plowing and applying anti-icing and de-icing chemicals, sand and brine to keep roads safe for winter driving. In Nevada motorists can dial 511 (1-877-NV-ROADS outside of Nevada) for road conditions. In California, motorists can call (800) 427-7623.

Here are some practical safe driving tips provided by Caltrans and NDOT.

  • Travel in winter weather only when necessary, leave enough time to safely reach your destination and plan your route to avoid snowy/icy areas and steep hills.
  • Slow down. A highway speed of 65 miles per hour may be safe in dry weather, but an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled and leave more distance between vehicles. Remember to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
  • Before driving, check weather and road conditions.
  • Share your travel itinerary so others know when to expect you.
  • Remove snow and ice from all vehicle windows, mirrors, lights, turn signals and license plates.
  • Bring a cell phone but don’t use it while driving.
  • Turn on headlights to see and be seen.
  • Don’t use cruise control.
  • Avoid quick starts, stops and fast turns.
  • Don’t slam on brakes. Apply steady pressure on ABS-equipped vehicles and pump the brakes if necessary on non-ABS vehicles.
  • Watch for snow removal equipment.
  • Do not pass without good distance and sight clearance.
  • Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses and shaded areas- they may freeze first.
  • Maintain a high fuel level.
  • If vehicle begins to skid, steer in direction of slide and slowly remove foot from accelerator.
  • Be aware of black ice.
  • If parked or stuck in snow, leave window slightly cracked for ventilation and make sure vehicle exhaust system is clear of snow.
  • Always carry tire chains, especially when traveling in mountain passes or typically snowy areas.
  • You must stop and put on chains when highway signs indicate chains are required. When you put on chains, wait until you can pull completely off the roadway to the right.

When there’s a snowplow:

  • Use caution when following, passing or approaching snow removal equipment.
  • Drive a safe distance behind snowplows. Plows often travel slower than other vehicles to remove snow, apply sand and liquid anti-icers.
  • Before attempting to pass snow removal equipment, check direction of snow discharge to avoid snow and debris thrown from equipment. Remember that plows are wider than most vehicles and portions of the plow and blade may be obscured by blowing snow.
  • Don’t travel beside a snowplow. They can shift sideways after hitting snow packs or drifts.

Carry the following when traveling:

  • Tire chains/tow strap
  • Flashlight
  • Spare batteries
  • Ice scraper/snow shovel
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Small bag of sand for wheel traction
  • Extra winter clothes/coat/gloves/socks
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Non-perishable foods/water
  • First aid supplies/prescription medication
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Candles/matches or lighter
  • State maps for navigation in event of winter detour

Be safe as you drive through snowy Tahoe!

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One Response to Winter driving in Lake Tahoe

  1. Do not use any water to de-ice the windshield. Cold water will simply freeze on very cold days and nights and using hot water can crack the glass! Plus the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground! Your best bet is to scrap and wait for the heater to do it’s job. Water can also freeze your door shut if you aren’t careful.

    A great tip for a frozen lock is to rub your key in hand sanitizer. The alcohol in it will help melt the ice!

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