RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — If you've ever driven on Interstate 80 over Donner Pass during a snow storm, you've surely sat in a long line of cars waiting to pass through a chain control checkpoint.
Caltrans workers individually check each car to make sure they either have proper chains installed or have all-wheel drive/four-wheel drive and snow tires.
But you will rarely — if ever — see a chain control checkpoint in Nevada. News 4-Fox 11 went to the Nevada Department of Transportation to find out why.
NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese, who can't remember a time when chain checkpoints were even considered in Nevada, said it all comes down to money.
"We don't have the resources and manpower to man full-time chain control checkpoints on our more than 4,000 lane miles of road across northwestern Nevada," Ragonese said.
Trooper Matt McLaughlin with the Nevada Highway Patrol echoed that sentiment in an emailed statement.
"We do monitor chain requirements with our active on-duty Troopers, however a physical site/checkpoint would be difficult to staff," McLaughlin wrote.
Ragonese also said that, in contrast with Interstate 80, many of Nevada's highways serve more commuters and locals, like Mt. Rose Highway connecting Incline Village and south Reno.
"Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, which does often have chain control checkpoints, does see a different type of driver - an interstate driver," she said.
"Some of those motorists (on Interstate 80) might be from out of the area, really unfamiliar with how to operate chains."
Ragonese said because of financial limitations, it comes down to a choice for NDOT — operate full-time chain checkpoints or focus on road maintenance.
"Chain control checkpoints are something that would really, unfortunately, take away our road maintenance members, as well as our partners at the NHP, away from our duties of maintaining and enforcing roadway laws and safety."
Below is the full statement from the Nevada Highway Patrol:
During the winter months, the Nevada Department of Transportation and Nevada Highway Patrol work hand-in-hand to achieve our goal of traffic safety on Nevada’s highways. As we have seen in recent weeks, areas such as Mount Rose and Interstate 80 into California have been closed for a period of time due to hazardous weather and road conditions. During last weekend’s closure of Mount Rose Highway, NHP Troopers and NDOT personnel were on the mountain, assisting those that had become stranded or disabled. These motorists were relocated by first responders to safe locations such as hotels in Incline Village and Reno. Many of those motorists ignored the posted signs that stated that the highway was closed. A physical barrier should not have to be in place to prevent motorists from attempting to traverse a dangerous highway that has been closed for obvious reasons.
NDOT is the entity that is in charge of making the decisions of strict chain controls. NHP is the entity that enforces the chain controls and highway restrictions when we observe the violation(s). During inclement weather, our resources are stretched thin. When the roads become wet, slick or snow covered, our Troopers are busy handling crashes and assisting motorists that have become struck or disabled. We do our best to respond quickly and safely to pending incidents and appreciate the assistance of allied agencies in the region. We do monitor chain requirements with our active on-duty Troopers, however a physical site/checkpoint would be difficult to staff.
In closing, motorists need to pay attention and be vigilant, not only while traveling but also before they travel. Resources such as 511 and nvroads.com are there to provide up-to-the-minute information on road conditions, closures and crashes. In regards to citations, NHP has issued many citations to motorists that fail to obey the posted signs and that fail to chain up. Motorists that do not follow the law will be dealt with accordingly and issued the appropriate citations. Below are the Nevada Revised Statutes that pertain to driving on a closed roadway, tire chains and traction control devices.