When Colorado’s chain law is in effect, every vehicle on the road is required to have chains or an alternative traction device.

Ready or not, winter is here, and with it, cold temperatures, reduced visibility, and slippery roads.

Successful winter road trips in the Centennial State require having your equipment in order, knowing how to deal with road hazards, and being prepared for things to go wrong.

Equip Your Car for Snowy Roads

When road conditions deteriorate because of winter weather conditions, the Colorado Department of Transportation sends out email and text notifications of special traction equipment requirements for motorists.

  • Under the traction law, motorists are required to have either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and all tires must have a minimum tread of one-eighth inch.
  • When the chain law is in effect, every vehicle on the road is required to have chains or an alternative traction device, and failure to meet either requirement may result in a minimum fine of $130, or more than $650 if your vehicle is out of compliance and is blocking the roadway.

Winter weather also demands extra attention to passenger restraint, because the bulk of heavy coats interferes with the protection that seatbelts provide. During a crash, all the extra fabric will compress, leaving the harness with too much slack and providing inadequate protection, particularly for children. To ensure a proper and more comfortable fit, unbutton your coat or, preferably, remove it altogether, and then buckle up.

Learn to Deal With Winter Road Conditions

Driving safely in the snow requires some special skills and knowledge:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best way to regain traction, avoid skidding, and prevent winter auto accidents. Always take time to slow down for a stoplight.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. If you can slow down enough to keep moving until the traffic light changes, do it.
  • When going up a hill, don’t speed up, and definitely don’t stop. Accelerating on snowy roads just starts your wheels spinning, and there’s nothing worse than trying to go up a steep, icy hill after you’ve come to a dead stop. Better to get some momentum going on a flat roadway before you try the hill.

Prepare for Traffic Delays

You never know when you might become delayed, stuck, or stranded, and having a tankful of gas will allow you to keep the car running so you can stay warm and charge your cell phone. If you do become stranded, run the engine only 10-15 minutes per hour in order to conserve fuel, and keep a back window cracked open to ensure dangerous carbon monoxide fumes don’t build up inside your vehicle. A tailpipe clogged with snow, mud, or ice can also cause deadly fumes to build up in your vehicle, so if you become stranded, check to ensure that your tailpipe remains clear.

When in Doubt, Just Stay Home

If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you’re experienced in winter driving, not everyone else is. Staying off the road could be the best decision you make this season.

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