Colorado bill would require snow tires or chains for I-70 drivers
A bill clarifying tire and chain requirements for drivers on I-70 is set for a second reading in the Colorado Senate on Friday. The bill passed in the House on March 6, and is sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs.
If the bill passes, all drivers — not just commercial drivers — will be required to have snow tires with treads at least an eighth of an inch deep. For those who do not want to buy a new set of tires, chains or another traction device are acceptable. The requirements apply only to cars on Interstate 70 during icy or snowpack conditions, using the same mile markers for truck chain laws.
“Every minute counts when you’re dealing with heavy congestion on I-70. It’s a critical corridor,” said Colorado Department of Transportation communications director Amy Ford. “This puts a much finer point on what we’ve spent most of this winter season educating people about.”
Last November, CDOT created an initiative to reach out to consumers about tires, offering tire checks and discounts for snow tires. The initiative followed February of 2014’s “snowmageddon,” when 54 vehicles spun out on I-70 in just one day.
Ford said of the 22 cars that tow trucks helped, 19 had completely bald tires. Eighteen of those cars had Colorado license plates.
“It’s not just the tourists. It’s us,” Ford said. “Eighty percent of the vehicles who caused that were from Colorado.”
CDOT supports the bill, and added that it would continue to partner with tire companies to bring consumers cheaper wheels for the winter if the bill passes.
“Tires are expensive. We get that. So that’s why we wanted to partner with folks,“ Ford said.
The cost of snow tires is certainly not cheap. They can range from $90 to $200 per tire, depending on the type of car and tire size. Cables are a cheaper option, ranging from $50 to $80 for a set of two for a passenger car. But like chains, with cables, you cannot drive faster than 35 miles per hour while they are attached. Chains aren’t cheap either, at $120 to $150 a pair.
Mitsch Bush said fines would follow existing passenger tire and chain laws: If a car without snow tires or traction devices causes an accident, the fine is $100. If the accident closes an entire lane, the driver could be fined $500.
“The troopers are so busy trying to help people and keep the road open, they aren’t gonna pull you over and say, ‘Excuse me, can I see your tires?’” Mitsch Bush said.
Josh Lewis, a public information officer for the Colorado State Patrol said troopers would enforce the clarified tire laws if the bill passes.
“We’re not gonna pull over cars and check their tires, but we would check a car if there was a crash,” Lewis said.
Margaret Bowes, program manager for the I-70 Coalition, said the group supported the bill and hopes it will pass through the Senate unchanged.
“There is maybe some confusion about what adequate traction is required in the existing chain law,” Bowes said. “A lot of people don’t know what that means. That’s a big reason why we support the bill.”
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