Colorado Public Works Journal, Winter 2023

WINTER 2023┃57 How to Stay Winter Wise Andrew Hogle is Deputy CDOT Public Information Officer and can be reached at Winter in Colorado means the return of bunny hills, lift lines and ice sculptures, but it can also mean dealing with blizzards, traffic jams and ice storms. With so much to see and do around the state, you’ll want to minimize your travel time while still arriving safely. Because our winter weather can be so unpredictable, the best way to stay safe is to always be prepared for the weather to turn. When it comes to your vehicle, a little preparation can keep a temporary delay from turning into an ordeal. No one expects to be stuck on the side of the road for hours, but if it does happen, you’ll be thankful to have things like: • Sturdy ice scraper/snow brush/snow shovel • Flashlight with extra batteries • Blanket or sleeping bag • Gallon jug of water • First aid kit and essential medications • Tire chains and tow strap • Jumper cables • Flares/reflectors to signal for help and warn other motorists • Battery/crank-powered radio to listen to emergency broadcasts • Cell phone charger • Extra clothes, including coat, hat, mittens, boots, etc. • Chemical hand warmers • Non-perishable snacks like granola bars • Non-clumping kitty litter/sand for traction • Deck of cards or board game for entertainment (More winter driving preparedness tips can be found at https://www. Preparation also means understanding where you’re going and what awaits you. Using tools like ( for current road and weather conditions, closure/detour information, and live feed cameras helps you know what to expect before setting out on your journey. When possible, avoid traveling during peak times, and check ( for weekend travel forecasts that are updated every Thursday to help you plan, as well as carpooling options for Coloradans without a vehicle. Consider transit options as well: Bustang, Pegasus, and Snowstang offer service to and from certain mountain areas, and Bustang Outrider offers service in rural regions. Understanding Colorado traction and chain laws is also essential to safe travel, although these statutes can be confusing. What most people commonly refer to as the ‘chain law’ is actually three separate laws: the Passenger Vehicle Traction Law, the Commercial Vehicle Chain Law, and the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law. The Traction Law and the CMV Chain Law both go into effect under roughly the same wintry weather conditions. If conditions get really gnarly and the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law is enacted, all vehicles on the road must have chains or alternative traction devices. This is less common and usually just prior to closing the road completely for safety concerns. Determining which law applies to you depends on the type of vehicle you are driving and the conditions on the road. For 2WD passenger vehicles, the Traction Law requires at least 3/16” tire tread depth on one of the following types of winter-appropriate tires: • Winter (as indicated by the mountain-snowflake symbol on the side) • Mud/snow (M+S symbol) • All-weather rated by manufacturer (note that all-season tires are not the same as all-weather and are not sufficient under Colorado statutes) 2WD vehicles without these tires must carry either chains or alternative traction devices to be compliant with the Traction Law. Technically, 4WD and AWD vehicles only need sufficient tread depth on any tires to be compliant. However, four-wheel drive does not mean four-wheel stop; due to their softer rubber composition, winter tires stop faster and perform better in the cold than summer tires. All drivers are encouraged to have winter-appropriate tires regardless of vehicle type. The Traction Law is always in effect from September 1 through May 31 along I-70 between Dotsero and Morrison. This is meant to alleviate delays and crashes along this mountain corridor during peak winter driving season. CDOT and Colorado State Patrol can call traction and chain laws into effect along any stretch of highway when warranted by conditions on the road, and the public will be notified by electronic signs when there are additional closures or restrictions. Fines for failing to comply with the Traction Law can range from $132 for a violation to over $650 for causing a lane closure. For more details about Colorado traction and chain laws, go to https://www. Enjoying all Colorado has to offer in the winter means taking the time to travel our highways safely. Be prepared, know before you go, and stay Winter Wise. CDOT Andrew Hogle