Traction devices to prevent car accidents in bad weather.

Johnson Tunnel, Interstate 70, Colorado.

Starting this winter, when the weather is bad, Colorado law enforcement officers will begin enforcing laws that require passenger vehicles on Interstate 70 to have snow tires or 4-wheel drive, or to have chains or an alternative traction device, wrote Denver TV station CBS4. The station quote Amy Ford of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) as saying:

We spent last year educating the public about the need for good tires and they listened, with more than 70 percent saying they checked their tires before traveling in the I-70 corridor.

Code 15 Traffic Law

Loss of traction and skidding off the road are the main causes of delays on highways in the cold weather months, wrote Drew Engelbart for Fox31 Denver. One of the laws that officers will enforce for passenger vehicles is Code 15, also known as the state’s Traction Law. When CDOT issues a Code 15, vehicles on I-70 will have to have either snow tires or 4-wheel drive, each with at least a 1/8 inch tire tread. And if the weather gets even worse, CDOT can issue a Code 16, which mandates that all vehicles on Interstate 70 (including semi trucks and cars) have chains or another traction device, such as an auto sock, on tires.

“Those who break the laws and cause a crash, block traffic, or just get caught could be fined more than $650,” CBS4 wrote.

Taking Action

CDOT spokeswoman Amy Wilfong told Engelbart of Fox 31 that the Department knew it had to take some action this winter:

It’s dangerous for the drivers who are driving the vehicles that are unprepared but in addition other drivers on the corridor. […] What we’ll do at CDOT is use our variable message board signs that we have on the highways, we’ll use that to alert drivers. We also have a lot of tools like, and on CDOT mobile you can also sign up for alerts via text message.

Although some Colorado legislators tried to make Code 15 a permanent law, that will not happen this season, Englebart wrote. (Code 15 has been a law “for quite some time now,” Wilfont said.)

Winter Driving Guide

Meanwhile, in a related item, the site “I’m from Denver” has posted a “Beginner’s Guide for ‘New’ Coloradans: How Not to Drive Like an Idiot This Winter.” Noting that the site’s readers have requested the article, the site lists the following tips for winter driving:

  1. “Stop riding my ass!” It is never a good idea to drive too closely to the vehicle in front of you, and especially when you are driving in snow. It can cause an accident if the vehicle in front of you stops shortly.
  2. “Fill your washer fluid.” As long as your vehicle’s reservoir has adequate window wiper fluid, you will be able to clean your windshield of the splashing melting snow, which contains magnesium chloride, a chemical that helps keep the roads wet and not frozen, but makes it hard to see through your windshield unless it’s cleaned off.
  3. “Buy new tires for your car right now.” If your tires are old and worn, you can have an accident. So, for your safety and that of your passengers, and everyone else on the road, it is essential to make sure your tires are in excellent shape, or else buy new ones.
  4. “Don’t slam on your brakes.” If you feel your vehicle starting to slip, don’t slam on your brakes, as that will remove traction from your tires and take away your ability to control your vehicle. If your starts to slip, the best thing to do is ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down by itself.
  5. “Give yourself EXTRA time to get places.” Often what causes traffic jams is people who don’t give themselves enough time to get to where they are going, especially in wintry weather.
  6. “Fill your gas tank when you get down to half.” This is a good idea because you don’t know when you could get stuck because of an accident, heavy snow, or a road closing. “I’m from Denver” wrote: “I was stranded one year during a really bad storm and I had to sleep in my car overnight.” Luckily, because that writer had a full tank of gas, he or she could keep the car running and warm.
  7. “Watch out for black ice.” Black ice is ice that is not visible, which can form a solid sheet in bad weather. Be very cautious when driving over bridges and overpasses when the temperature is near freezing (or below), because black ice is very hazardous.
  8. “If you don’t need to go anywhere, don’t.” This is self-explanatory (but, acknowledging that many people have to commute to work, “I’m from Denver” suggests that you take advantage of staggered work hours to avoid rush hour driving, if your employer is okay with that).
  9. “Don’t power up hills.” Your tires will just spin if you slam on your gas pedal while trying to move uphill in snowy weather.
  10. “Slow the f*** down.” Even if you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle with snow tires, if you hit an ice patch, you can cause a vehicle accident. For your own safety and the safety of those around you, proceed slowly. “[F]our wheel drive does not ensure four wheel stop!” “I’m from Denver” writes.

Image by vxla, used under its Creative Commons license.

Embed this infographic:
Embed this image: