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Hey Drivers: Winter is coming, are you ready?

While some may cheer and others lament, it’s inevitable – and coming sooner than you may think. Forecasts call for snow late tonight and early Saturday morning at elevations above 3,000 feet, which means those traveling over mountain passes across Washington state may see flakes on the windshield.

These first flakes are a good reminder it’s time to prepare for rain, wind, snow and ice. Taking the time to prepare now will save time and reduce stress during the first winter storm.

It just takes one unprepared or careless driver to slow or stop traffic. Always “know before you go” and get the most recent roadway information, winter-driving tips, car-preparation advice and information at the Washington State Department of Transportation’s winter driving website.

Here’s what drivers can do to prepare for wintry roadway conditions:

· Download, print and carry the WSDOT Winter Driving Guide.

· Download the WSDOT mobile app to your smartphone.

· Sign up for news and social media tools such as Twitter at www.wsdot.wa.gov/inform.

· Get your car ready and plan extra time to cross all mountain passes, including heavily traveled routes such as Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass and White Pass.

· Carry chains and know the traction and chain requirements. Mountain-pass traction and chain requirements are available on the WSDOT website, highway advisory signs and highway advisory radio; and

· Preset 530 AM and 1610 AM on your vehicle’s radio before traveling.

Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative traction devices when crossing a mountain pass requires the use of chains.

Studded tires are legal for use only between Nov. 1 and March 31 in Washington state. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about tires that provide traction and are legal for year-round use.

The WSP also reminds all drivers and freight haulers that state law requires commercial vehicles and combinations of vehicles more than 10,000 pounds gross-vehicle-weight rating to carry sufficient tire chains between Nov. 1 and April 1, including some larger passenger trucks, SUVs, recreational vehicles and trucks hauling trailers.

Troopers will strictly enforce the Nov. 1 deadline. Failing to carry chains will cost heavy-truck drivers $124. When highway advisories call for chains, drivers who don’t chain up will face a $500 penalty. The WSP will have a special chain-emphasis patrol in early November to ensure drivers are carrying the appropriate number of chains, including spares.

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