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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not here yet, but we know heavy snow is eventually going to fall along the Wasatch Front.
As is common during big snowstorms, many canyon roads in Utah will have driving restrictions meaning only vehicles with chains or 4-wheel drive transmissions are allowed.
“There’s always that real steep learning curve the first snowstorm,” said Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant Nick Street. “We see it every year.”
Also, this year, there is a new rule being put into place by the Utah Department of Transportation regarding 2-wheel drive cars and snow tires.
Two-wheel drive vehicles will be allowed on weather-restricted canyon roads if those vehicles have certain rated tires.
“It’s a new option for drivers of front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive vehicles to be able to utilize certain mountain roadways within the state,” said Sgt. Street.
Drivers will know if they have the right tire if it has a three-peak mountain snowflake logo on it.
These tires have better tread and patterns than a standard all-season tire, which allows drivers to have more control during snowy and rainy conditions.
“The whole objective here is to just make sure that everyone is getting to where they’re going as safely as possible,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason.
UDOT and UHP both received several calls Thursday afternoon from people wondering if the mountain snowflake tires were required for 2-wheel drive vehicles in the snow.
“There isn’t any type of requirement that people have to go out and get them,” Street said. “There’s no requirement to get this rating of a snow tire. It’s only if you’re going to be utilizing certain roadways.”
That means if 2-wheel drive vehicles stay on roads where winter restrictions aren’t in place, then the driver doesn’t have to have mountain snowflake tires on the car.
The M+S or M/S tires are still acceptable for 4-wheel drive vehicles on weather-restricted roads.
Chains are still acceptable for 2-wheel drive vehicles to drive on weather-restricted roads and canyons.
“If you don’t want to get that tire (mountain snowflake tires), you can just carry chains like you used to do and nothing has changed with that,” Street said.
According to Street, many callers to UHP Thursday afternoon were from people worried about the Class B misdemeanor penalty listed on UDOT’s website for those 2-wheel drivers who attempt to drive on weather-restricted roads without chains or snow tires.
A Class B misdemeanor in Utah carries the potential of a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.
However, UDOT said the Class B misdemeanor penalty listed on its website was a mistake and they have since corrected it.
The actual penalty is only an infraction.
“That’s the level of offense this would be,” Street said. “It’s not a misdemeanor. It’s an infraction-level offense similar to if you were pulled over for having your registration out of date for a couple of weeks or a month or something like that.”
An updated graphic and statement from UDOT is included here.