Q. My teenage son wants a new radio-controlled car for Christmas. Are there any restrictions in Santa Monica that would prohibit him from enjoying his Christmas gift?

A. The Santa Monica Municipal Code does prohibit the use of radio-controlled vehicles (cars, trucks, or anything that travels on the ground) in all Santa Monica beach parking lots (4.08.190 SMMC). Before you go out and make your son’s Christmas wish come true, there are a few things you should consider before buying a radio-controlled car.

First, think about your son’s age and his experience with operating radio-controlled cars. This will give you an idea as to what type of vehicle would suit his capabilities. There are two types of radio-controlled cars available for purchase. The types are nitro-powered (gas) and battery-powered (electric). The nitro-powered vehicles are typically faster and more powerful than battery-powered cars. They also create more noise. You should consider the noise factor, especially if you plan on allowing your son to operate his vehicle in your neighborhood. The Santa Monica Police Department occasionally receives noise complaints regarding the use of nitro-powered, radio-controlled cars. Nitro-powered vehicles also require a larger area to operate and could possibly create a traffic hazard if operated on a city street. Some nitro-powered vehicles can reach speeds in excess of 40mph! Most drivers don’t plan to encounter a small swift radio-controlled vehicle when they enter onto a city street. Due to the quickness of the radio controlled car, a driver could mistake it for a small animal and swerve out the way, causing a collision. If this is the type of vehicle your son desires, you may want to search the internet for your nearest hobby club or track. These clubs will usually have designated areas (or tracks) where radio-controlled car enthusiasts can take their vehicles and push them to the limit. There are many other things to consider before you purchase a radio-controlled vehicle, but most of them relate to personal preference such as price, maintenance, and driving style (street or off-road).

Electric cars or battery-powered cars can be just as fun to operate as nitro-powered cars. One of the major differences is the noise output. Electric cars are significantly quieter than nitro-powered cars. Some have the capability to reach high speeds as well. Although quieter, these types of cars can also create a traffic hazard. When it comes to radio-controlled cars, there are a lot of options out there available to you. You can research a lot of the options on the internet or by visiting your local hobby store. Before you buy, make sure you do your homework. You don’t want your son’s Christmas gift to be your or your neighbor’s worst nightmare.

Q. I plan on driving in the snow this winter. I just bought an all-wheel drive sport utility vehicle (S.U.V.), not a conventional four-wheel drive vehicle. In regards to tire chains for snow driving, do I follow the same rules as four-wheel drive vehicles?

A. Yes. Even though all-wheel drive systems differ mechanically from conventional four- wheel drive systems, for the purposes of chain control, all-wheel drive is considered the same as four-wheel drive. There are three different roadway conditions that dictate whether or not you need chains. The conditions are as followed:

• R-1: Chains are required on all vehicles except passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks under 6,000 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on at least two-drive wheels. Chains must be carried by vehicles using snow tires. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on one drive axle. Trailers with brakes must have chains on at least one axle.

• R-2: Chains are required on all vehicles except four-wheel-drive vehicles under 6,500 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on all four wheels. Chains for one set of drive wheels must be carried by four wheel-drive vehicles using snow tires.

• R-3: Chains are required on all vehicles without exception.

R-1 and R-2 are the most common conditions. A highway will often be closed before an R-3 condition is imposed. Some local areas may use variations of these designations. You must follow the directions on the signs posted for chain controls or any instructions given by Caltrans or law enforcement personnel at chain control check points.

It’s always best to be well informed and properly equipped before traveling in the snow. You can log onto the Caltrans website and check the road conditions in California. The website address is www.dot.ca.gov.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Mike Boyd, Beat 8 (Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or michael.boyd@smgov.net.

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