Slow drivers becoming enemy No. 1
SUMMIT COUNTY – Anyone who’s driven between Frisco and Breckenridge on Highway 9 knows who the “gapers” are.
One day, it might be the RV going 10 mph. The next, a U-Haul pulling a trailer. The posted speed limit is 50 mph, and, to locals trying to get to work, big trucks or gawking tourists soon become enemy No. 1.
“On Highway 9 next to Lake Dillon, everyone stops and takes pictures,” disgruntled driver Kristin Skvorc from Frisco said. “It’s really annoying. Not everyone here is a tourist. I wish people understood that.”
To Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales, the problem of slow-moving traffic can be solved with one simple solution: If you want to see the mountains, pull over.
“I’ve driven from Frisco to Breckenridge and (seen) people looking at the lake, looking at the mountains, going about 20 mph below the limit,” Morales said. “So I zoom up there, flash my lights, turn on my sirens, pull them over and ask them if they’re OK.
“I’ll ask people if they realize there’s 25 cars behind them,” Morales continued, “and they’ll say, “I didn’t even know.’ A lot of tourists don’t understand all the locals are trying to get to work. Just go the limit.”
The same problems exist on Interstate 70, where, coming down or up the pass, a slow-moving vehicle can back traffic up for miles. Even with three lanes between Silverthorne and Eisenhower Tunnel, the state still had to institute a minimum speed limit of 55 mph in the left lane to keep a steady flow.
A state law does exist that demands drivers not impede traffic. If caught and ticketed, a “gaper” could lose $18.60 and three points on his or her license.
“It’s not the most heinous of traffic violations,” Morales said. “But it’s something we do watch.”
Most violators are warned and not ticketed, Morales added.
Commuters like Paul Scholten avoid the traffic headaches by riding their bicycles on the path between Breckenridge and Frisco. But, Scholten said, that doesn’t always solve the problem.
“For people who are serious riders, that kind of sucks, too,” Scholten said. “You get people stopping – families of 10 stop in the middle of the road.”
Other locals, like Kevin Kahle, enjoy a nice, slow drive in the country but understand the rules nonetheless.
“My feeling is, if you’re out for a nice drive, that’s fine, but let people by when they’re in a hurry,” Kahle said. “Personally, I don’t like to be tailgated. People should pay more attention. You go around, if you can, but don’t hold up the world.”
The bottom line is, Morales said, use common sense and understand the plight of someone driving in unfamiliar territory. Skvorc agreed.
“I’ve been a tourist before,” she said. “It is hard to find your way around. I guess you get used to it here after you live here a while.”
Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998 ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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