By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
One of the many benefits of being stationed in Colorado is access to the state’s world famous ski resorts. Vail, Aspen, Copper Mountain, Frisco, Loveland, Keystone, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, the type of weather that comes with trips to those slopes can also be some of the most hazardous to travel.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, “if weather conditions require, CDOT can implement Passenger Vehicle Traction and Chain Laws.” These laws can be put in place anywhere in the state, but particular attention to enforcement will be paid to the stretch of Interstate 70 from Morrison to Dotsero.
If a Traction Law, or Code 15, is put in effect, all passenger vehicles must be equipped with snow tires, tires with a mud/snow designation (M/S) or four-wheel drive. Additionally, all tires must have at least one-eighth inch tread.
To determine whether your tires meet the minimum tread depth, take a quarter and place it in the tire tread with the top of Washington’s head facing down. If the top of his head is covered, your tires meet the tread qualifications, if the top of his head is visible, your tires are below the minimum requirements for the Traction Law and you should replace them. Be sure to check the tread at various points around each tire as it is possible for tires to wear unevenly.
One of the reasons the Traction Law is implemented was due to the Feb. 9, 2014 storm in which delays of up to three hours were recorded on I-70 between Silverthorne and the Eisenhower Tunnel. According to CDOT, of the 22 vehicles that either spun out or caused crashes that day, 19 of them had worn tires.
“Drivers should expect every time they see a chain law required for truckers that the traction law will be required for passenger vehicles,” CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford recently told the Denver Post.
If conditions worsen, a Code 16, or Passenger Vehicle Chain Law, could be put in place. This would be the final step before closing the highway.
“During a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law, every vehicle on the roadway is required to have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock),” according to CDOT.
Highway signs will alert drivers when an active Traction or Chain Law is in effect. Notice will also be posted on COtrip.org or travelers can call 511 or sign up for text or email notifications through the CDOT website.
The Colorado State Patrol doesn’t actively enforce the Traction Law, however, if your vehicle is involved in an accident while the law is in effect, CSP can measure the tread depth and issue a citation under Revised State Code 42-4-228 (5). If your tires are found to be below the minimum one-eighth inch tread, fines can range from $130 to more than $650 if the vehicle is blocking the roadway.
You can read more about winter weather preparedness, both at home and on the road at http://www.schriever.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123459643.