Winter Weather Driving Tips for Colorado
With up to four inches of snow falling in Denver as of yesterday morning, and with more snow said to have been falling in areas to the north, it is a good time to review tips for safe driving in bad weather.
Associated Press reports in USA TODAY that the snow downed power lines, causing power outages, including one that shut down the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Two of the approximately 30 people who camped out under tarps in Civic Center Park in the Denver Wall Street protest had to be treated for hypothermia.
In a nice bit of timing. Denver’s first snow of the season has arrived in tandem with Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado, proclaimed by Governor John Hickenlooper to run during the week of October 23-29.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) says, “It is critical that travelers know the impending conditions before setting out and prepare their vehicles for winter weather travel — for their own safety, as well as the safety of others on the road.”
1. Plan your trip! Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: http://www.coloradodot.info/travel/winter-driving for tips, road conditions, information on CDOT’s 14-hour snow plow coverage and more; or call 511 for statewide road conditions. Also, sign up for FREE wireless text and/or e-mail updates on road conditions/closures — see the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner of our web site home page. Motorists can also log onto the National Weather Service’s site at http://weather.gov/.
2. Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm.
3. If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
4. Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle’s safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock de-icer.
5. Remember that 4-wheel drive does not mean 4-wheel stop. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.
6. Be sure of your route. Don’t go exploring in the back-country without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location.
7. Be sure you have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least 1/8 of an inch tread depth. All season radials on a front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations; install them on all four tires. Four snow tires on most rear-wheel drive vehicles are usually adequate. Chain restrictions in Colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi-trailer trucks) and do not usually affect passenger vehicles (please see information on Colorado’s chain law at http://www.coloradodot.info/travel/commercial-vehicles/colorado-chain-law.url).
8. In poor visibility or even whiteout conditions, don’t drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents. Remember you can’t see around mountain curves and corners, either.
9. In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road, and never drink and drive.
10. Always buckle up!
Chrissy Morin, Douglas County Examiner for Examiner.com, gives snow safety tips for new residents of Douglas County, but you don’t have to live in Douglas County to follow this advice:
• Do not drive if you don’t know how to drive in snow! It doesn’t matter if you have a four wheel drive vehicle or not, if you are going too fast or don’t know how to use your breaks on snow and ice you WILL get in an accident and possible hurt yourself, others and property. Take advantage of one of your Colorado native friends or neighbors and have them teach you to drive here.
• If you have deciduous trees, do go outside and gently tap off heavy snow from tree limbs before they break. Trees are a precious commodity in the high plains.
• Keep cars and other vehicles fueled and in good repair, with a winter emergency kit in each.
• Get a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor severe weather.
Associated Press notes the following irony: “The taste of winter came as President Barack Obama makes his second visit to Denver in less than a month. The last time he visited some people passed out from the heat.”