Early snow brings accidents: nearly 20 vehicle collisions in area during last week’s storm
If early snowstorms surprised Tahoe-Truckee residents, so did hazardous road conditions and the number of traffic accidents due to weather.
In the last two weeks, freezing temperatures have maintained the ice hedging major roads and covering neighborhood streets, making certain roadways surprisingly slick.
Public Affairs Officer Todd Kettwig from the Truckee branch of the California Highway Patrol said there were 17 independent collisions in the Truckee area and two major accidents on Interstate 80 Friday afternoon. Four big rigs and 18 vehicles were involved in five collisions just west of Blue Canyon.
“The causes (for the accidents) were numerous, but most flagrant was that people were driving too fast for the conditions,” said Steve Schnoebelen, public affairs officer with California Highway Patrol in Gold Run.
Schnoebelen said one of the responding officers reported that limited visibility and snow on the downhill roadway contributed to the accident.
“One (of the pile-ups) involved 11 vehicles including three big rigs. One of the drivers suffered serious injury – a broken femur,” he said. “It’s a down grade … and it’s a hazardous area.”
Chains were not required at the time of the accident, which occurred at 2:15 p.m. Friday and stopped westbound traffic on Interstate 80 at the bug station until approximately 6 p.m. Metered traffic was allowed to pass.
“People need to be aware that these conditions can arise suddenly,” Schnoebelen said.
At the Central Sierra Snow Lab on Donner Summit, snow hydrologist Randall Osterhuber measured only 7.5 inches of new snow this week, a relatively small storm for the high Sierra. Osterhuber reports that the lab at 6,900 feet on Donner Summit has received 46 inches of new snow since Oct. 1.
Capt. Gary Jacobson with Nevada County Sheriff’s Office said most of the accidents from the weather last weekend occurred on the interstate, not in town.
“Traditionally we have a number of accidents that occur in the Tahoe Donner area when the conditions are icy. Many of the people there are unfamiliar with the roads and how to drive during inclement weather,” he said.
Jon Matosian, an automobile insurance agent with Allstate, said he comes in early on stormy days because he expects there will be more accidents.
To avoid becoming a statistic, Matosian recommends drivers allow plenty of room between vehicles, avoid speeding, drive slower than normal and use chains, even if they aren’t required.
“Four wheel drive vehicles are still required to have chains if we go to an R-3,” Schnoebelen said.
When the CHP declares an R-1, all vehicles with mud and snow tires are allowed to drive over area passes. An R-2 requires that all vehicles use chains except four wheel drives with mud and snow tires. A road rating of R-3, however, requires that all vehicles use chains.
“If conditions call for an R-3 they generally close the road. But it has happened twice since I’ve been up here that they don’t.” Schnoebelen said.
Winter Road Safety Tips
— Check your vehicle before leaving home. Make sure you have the required chains. Check wiper blades and all fluid levels. Make sure the heater and defroster are working properly.
–Have plenty of fuel.
— Carry jackets, blankets, and extra food in case you are delayed because of traffic and weather.
— Dress warmly and allow yourself extra time to arrive at your destination.
–Check your tread depth for sufficient tread. A “Mud and Snow” tire must have a minimum of 6/32 of an inch at all points to be a legal tire. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle you are still required to carry chains while in a “Chain Control Area.”
Source: California Highway Patrol. If you have questions contact Officer Todd Kettwig at 587-3518.
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