Now, save us from rental cars
Finally, some concrete action combating those blizzard-fueled messes on I-70. Recent moves from the Colorado Department of Transportation and our elected representatives have resulted in more chain-up areas with better lighting for truckers; digital speed limit signs that change when the chain law goes into effect; roadside assistance for truckers who need help installing chains; and new truck stop areas both east of Denver and west of Vail to hold trucks off the passes when conditions are bad.
Another piece of this puzzle recently falling into place is CDOT’s approval of the “AutoSock” – a fabric covering for tires that slips on like a hairnet and provides similar – some tests say even better – traction than chains. Since the socks take much less time to put on, we hope truck drivers and owners start replacing those old chains with socks soon, because the benefits for safety and speed appear clear and numerous.
As the trucking industry does its part to help keep winter roads clear, though, we believe its time for another heavy user of I-70 to step up to the plate: the rental car industry. Every winter, the car rental agencies at DIA let loose thousands of vehicles into the high country piloted by people unfamiliar with winter driving techniques and with no idea what they’re heading into. The vehicles are not equipped with snow tires, and the trend has been to put people in all-wheel-drive vehicles (and charging them more) in the hope that will help.
It doesn’t. Seems like nine times out of 10, that vehicle upside down by Bakerville is an SUV equipped with all-wheel-drive. What the renters of these vehicles are never told is that A) it still doesn’t have snow tires and B) four-wheel-drive doesn’t help one stop.
High country citizens sick of sitting in traffic because of jackknifed trucks or upside-down Explorers may see some relief from the truck side soon. The next thing we’d ask our elected officials to take a look at is what additional responsibility rental car agencies should bear when the product they’re selling is wreaking havoc up here at the hands of inexperienced drivers in vehicles not ready for winter. Should rental units destined for mountain driving be equipped with snow tires or even AutoSocks? Having renters watch a short video on mountain driving wouldn’t hurt, either.
Or, with the trucker lesson fresh in mind, perhaps stiffer fines for cars obstructing traffic would be in order. That could be a little harsh, though, for someone who’s literally just had their Colorado ski vacation turned upside-down.
-The Summit Daily Editorial Board consists of Jim Morgan, Alex Miller, Ryan Wondercheck, Matt Sandberg, Morgan Liddick and Howard Hallman.
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