snoqualmie avalanche control wsdot I90 I-90 interstate

Snow is cleared from Interstate 90 after crews set off a controlled avalanche at Snoqualmie Pass, in this file photo from Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo Courtesy WSDOT)

State transportation officials and the state patrol are teaming up to crack down on drivers who don’t carry chains or put them on when crossing snowy mountain passes.

Drivers who ignore chain requirements face fines of up to $500. While it’s a stiff penalty, it’s important that drivers follow the law, a state Department of Transportation news release said.

More than half of the closures on Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass in the past several years have been caused by drivers ignoring the chain-up requirement, getting into collisions and blocking lanes, the release said.

When collisions block lanes on the pass, officials have to close the roadway to get emergency responders and tow trucks to the scene. That’s harder to do on a mountain pass than a regular highway and takes a long time.

This winter has already seen a collision-related closure on Snoqualmie Pass. On Nov. 23, multiple spinouts on Interstate 90 in the pass area caused officials to close all eastbound lanes for several hours.

“The whole reason why we have these traction tire requirements is for the safety of drivers,” WSDOT spokesperson Meagan Lott said.

This is the second year the state Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol have teamed up to enforce chain requirements during winter storms and inclement weather on Snoqualmie Pass, Lott said.

After noticing the trend of collision-sparked closures, WSDOT officials started asking the state patrol to add troopers in the area when bad weather was anticipated, Lott said. She said they hope it will help avoid collisions and the resulting closures. More than 30,000 vehicles travel across the pass daily.

If your car has smaller wheel wells and can’t take chains or the manufacturer doesn’t recommend chains, Washington State Patrol has an approved list of alternatives.