CDOT, I-70 Coalition push for better traction in Colorado’s mountain corridor
Several cars skidded out on Interstate 70 Friday morning, as heavy snows made for slick driving throughout the mountain corridor.
With commercial chain laws and passenger vehicle traction laws in effect, Colorado State Patrol trooper Josh Lewis said the highway still saw multiple crashes in the morning, though with no serious injuries or fatalities.
“We’ve had lots of minor fender benders, and vehicles that needed to be towed out,” Lewis said.
Following an emphasis on educating drivers about snow tires last year, the Colorado Department of Transportation is looking to communicate the importance of traction this year with increased enforcement. Drivers may be fined for driving the corridor during adverse conditions without appropriate tires or devices.
During a “code 15,” traction law is enforced for passenger vehicles, mandating snow tires, mud and snow (M/S) tires, four-wheel drive or an alternative traction device. All tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
The more seldom “code 16” or passenger vehicle chain law, requires chains or alternative traction devices for all passenger vehicles. The rule goes into effect in very slick conditions, just prior to a highway closure.
Under these conditions, the fine for being pulled over without proper equipment is $130; if a roadway is blocked due a lack of proper equipment, the fine can exceed $650.
While Colorado State Patrol won’t pull drivers over specifically for bald tires, they will check tread or traction devices in the event of an accident or slide.
“Oftentimes, with these laws in effect, we’re more concerned with people being safe,” Lewis said. “We often need to get to the next crash.”
Last winter, when 22 vehicles spun out on the Interstate during a particularly bad snowstorm, 19 of them had bald tires.
“We spent last year educating the public about the need for good tires and they listened, with more than 70 percent saying they checked their tires before traveling in the I-70 corridor,” Amy Ford, CDOT director of communications, said in a statement. “Drivers should expect in general when they see a chain law required for truckers that the traction law will likely be required for passenger vehicles.”
Continuing from last winter, CDOT will once again partner with local tire stores to offer discounts on snow tires throughout the season.
At Big O Tires in Frisco, a 10-percent discount up to $100 for a set of snow tires is available through March 1. Meanwhile, at Meadow Creek Discount Tires, drivers can get a 10-percent discount off a set of four tires through April 1. Coupons are available through CDOT’s website.
The I-70 Coalition is also offering mountain corridor residents the option to buy an AutoSock, a textile traction device that serves as an alternative to chains in slick conditions.
“There may be an instance where, even with good tires, you want this,” Margaret Bowes, I-70 coalition program manager said. “Chains, I think, are very intimidating to folks.”
The traction devices slip around the tire like a sock, with a canvas like-fabric held in place around the tire by an elastic band. The AutoSock was tested and approved as an alternative traction device by CDOT, working as well as chains in tough conditions, though a pricier option.
“They are the easiest traction product to put on your tire that I’ve come across,” said Andrew Madison, an employee of NAPA Auto Parts. However, he noted that the devices are more fragile, and should not be driven on dry pavement.
“If you treat them right, they’ll last as long as your vehicle, but the second you start to abuse them they’ll go pretty quick,” Madison said.
The I-70 Coalition is partnering with the McGee Company, the U.S. AutoSock distributor, to make the device available at NAPA Auto Parts and Ski Country Shell in Frisco, and Conoco at Copper Mountain. The devices sell at $100 per pair, and are intended to go on the wheels that are powered by the engine.
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