Chains, teaching and tire would solve road woes
Some of us remember when the chain law was really the chain law. We remember when we would not dare leave Denver to head west without having chains in the trunk when the chain law was in effect.
We would be stopped around Georgetown and given the alternative of putting on chains or turning around and going back to Denver. No alternative. No exceptions. No chains. No go.
Then they changed the chain law to include chains or adequate snow tires. Not all-season tires but real snow tires. You remember, the kind with the big lugs that made a whining sound when you drove on dry asphalt.
The chain stations always included several highway employees in big parkas looking at the tires and checking the ratings on the sidewalls. If they said no then the answer was no. We stayed put or turned around. No exceptions.
When you were stuck in the barrow ditch or could not drive due to a lack of traction, the Colorado State Patrol or local law enforcement would write you a ticket. An expensive ticket. No excuses for driving in the mountains without chains or good snow tires.
Then things changed. Priorities shifted and the chain stations were no longer staffed. The signs would go up but there was no one there to check to see if we complied with the law.
The chain law was changed to create a multilevel definition. When the chain law was in effect, it was only for single-axle commercial vehicles. Cars could be included but they never are – only trucks. I guess someone assumed cars never spun out or lost traction on a hill.
At the March 27 “Magnesium Chloride – Use of Sand Forum,” this issue was debated long and hard.
Many people remember the way the law was enforced 10 years ago and how current enforcement does not work. The Colorado State Patrol is stretched just investigating accidents. The Colorado Department of Transportation is busy putting down magnesium chloride and sand and no longer staffs chain stations.
Several people commented about the strict enforcement of chain laws in the High Sierra in California. They described the chains stations staffed by California Highway Patrol and how you can’t proceed unless you meet the requirements of the state law – no exceptions. People who have experienced this were impressed. So impressed they will never forget the experience.
The whole thing has shifted and is totally out of whack. We have lost sight of what we truly want as far as safety is concerned.
The informal poll at the forum indicated people did not want magnesium chloride used. They also did not want sand used. The people at the meeting felt there were two causes of the problem.
First, enforcement. We need to reinstate our vehicle inspection law. We need to have a chain law. We need to require snow tires.
Second, we need to have driver education back in our schools. The class should be required for everyone getting a driver’s license. There was a consensus at the meeting that most of the problems on the roads were a result of driver errors. Driving too fast for conditions. Driving recklessly in bad road conditions. Or as my good friend Bill likes to say, rectal-cranial inversion. Think about it.
It is a people thing. Our schools need people to do driver training. The Colorado State Patrol needs more people for enforcement of laws. The Colorado Department of Transportation needs more people to work the chain stations before idiots plug up the road.
The driving public deserves better.
Columnist Gary Lindstrom writes a regular Thursday column for the Summit Daily News. He owns a great set of snow tires.
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