CDOT asks drivers to prepare for wintry weather conditions
FRISCO — It’s still early September, but snowy conditions already have arrived in Summit County and areas around the state. Officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation are urging motorists to take note and make sure they’re ready to travel safely once winter weather arrives in earnest.
“It’s really interesting going from 100-degree days with red flag warnings and wildfires to giving winter driving tips,” CDOT spokesperson Elise Thatcher said. “It really is a dramatic change in how we’re communicating with people on the road. We understand for someone driving this week it’s a big mental shift in how everyone is thinking about safety.”
For community members who frequent Interstate 70, seasonal traction laws are already in place to help mitigate traffic congestion and closures throughout the winter. Last year, Gov. Jared Polis signed a new bill into law that requires drivers to comply with traction laws on I-70 between Dotsero and Morrison from Sept. 1 through May 31, regardless of weather conditions.
All motorists traveling through the corridor are required to have one of the following:
- Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles and a tire tread depth of at least three-sixteenths of an inch
- Tires with a mud and snow designation or snow tires and a tread depth of at least three-sixteenths of an inch
- Chains or an AutoSock
“The beginning of the season is always a fantastic time to make sure you’ve got good tires, particularly good snow tires if you live in Summit County or the nearby area,” Thatcher said. “You can check with a quarter. When the quarter is upside down and the tread covers the top of George’s head, you’re good. But if you can see all or most of it, you need new tires.”
Drivers caught without adequate equipment when traction or chain laws are in effect could be fined more than $130, and anyone who blocks a roadway because of insufficient traction could be fined an additional $650, according to CDOT.
Officials say the rules are helpful in keeping everyone on the road safe along with keeping transportation options open so that businesses in the High Country aren’t impacted by long closures or delays.
Keep up with the conditions:
• Forecast and recent weather stories: summitdaily.com/news/weather.
• Storm warnings and advisories: wrh.noaa.gov
• Summit County ski area forecasts: opensnow.com/region/summitcounty
• Road conditions, closures and traffic cameras: cotrip.org.
• Travel information by phone: 511 (in Colorado) or 303-639-1111.
• Sign up for CDOT alerts: codot.gov/topcontent/travel-alerts-system/for-general-public.
• Avalanche danger and conditions: avalanche.state.co.us.
• Flight information: flightview.com/traveltools.
“Our No. 1 goal, and what we always work toward, is safety on the roadways,” Thatcher said. “We are out there plowing, putting down deicer and other materials, and making sure it’s safe for folks to drive on the road. But we also certainly understand the economic importance of the mountain corridor for folks in Summit, Eagle or elsewhere. We want to make sure people can get where they’re going to visit the mountains and get home at the end of the day.”
Proper tires are only part of the safe winter driving equation. CDOT also recommends residents visit a mechanic to make sure their cars are properly winterized and that their lights, heaters, batteries, brakes and more are all in safe operating condition.
Anyone heading out during a storm also should prepare an emergency kit in their car filled with essentials like a snow shovel, flashlight, batteries, water, necessary medication, blankets, jumper cables and anything else that might be needed.
Perhaps most importantly, officials are warning drivers to always check the conditions before they leave and to never put themselves in unnecessary danger.
“Don’t put yourself in a situation you may not be able to handle,” Thatcher said. “Often when we’re helping someone, they’ll tell us they didn’t realize the conditions were that challenging. So we always encourage folks to check those things before they leave, look at the cameras, check the road conditions and find out if things are snow packed or icy.
“If things are bad, and you don’t have a lot of experience, it may be a good idea to just try it another day.”
Motorists can visit COTrip.org to get live updates on weather and road conditions, closures, chain laws, and to check out photos and videos of roadways to make a smart decision. And as always when conditions are poor, drivers should take it slow, give other cars plenty of space and plan ahead for potentially longer commutes.
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