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As we roll into the new year in Colorado, we can count on a few things: folks hitting the gyms to achieve their New Year’s resolutions, heavy traffic on I-70 because of all our great skiing destinations, and treacherous driving conditions created by our unpredictable winter weather. Colorado has some unique traction and chain laws that are worth reviewing before you venture out on your next winter driving excursion on our mountain roads. These laws are particularly important when one considers that while driving at 60 miles per hour on snowy pavement, regular/ all-season tires require 668 feet of stopping distance. That’s over two times the stopping distance required when using winter tires with good tread. During severe winter storms, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) requires vehicles to have chains or an alternative traction device. For example, AutoSock and ISSE are textile products that fit over tires and provide an alternative to clunky snow chains. This is known as Rule 16, and vehicles that do not comply can be fined more than $130. The fine increases if your vehicle blocks the roadway due to inadequate compliance, and the fine can be more than $650! Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles are not necessarily in the clear, and neither are vehicles equipped with tires with mud or snow designations. Under Rule 15 tires must have one- eighth of an inch of tread. CDOT suggests a quick way to test if your tires are up to snuff. It’s called the quarter test. If a quarter is placed in the tread of the tire and the head is covered, you are okay. If the top of the head is visible in any part of the tire tread, you are not in compliance.
All motorists are subject to the same tire restrictions under Rule 16 and must also have chains or alternative traction devices in severe winter storms. CDOT would like drivers of passenger vehicles to remember to pull off in a designated area when putting on snow chains and to keep in mind that this applies to all state highways, not just the I-70 Mountain Corridor. In 2014, one of the worst traffic delays was caused by vehicles with worn tires. Of the 22 vehicles spinning out of control and causing crashes, 19 of them had worn tires. Crashes can delay traffic for hours and account for 60 percent of all traffic delays.
CDOT wants to help, and they have partnered with tire companies across the state to offer discounts on new tires. Peerless Tires 4 Less, with branches in Fort Collins, Greeley, and Loveland, is participating in this program. For more information or to find a location near you, please visit winter.codot.gov/tires.
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