Winter driving tips
• Officials say the most important "tip" they can give is for motorists to drive slower, allow for more distance between them and the car in front of them and start slowing down sooner when approaching an intersection or traffic light.
• Winter tires are important for all vehicles driving on ice, even those with four-wheel drive.
• If you are stuck in a serious storm, do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
• Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm.
• Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food. Winterize your vehicle's safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help stuck tires gain traction, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock deicer.
• Four-wheel drive does not mean four-wheel stop. A four-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.
• Don't drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents. Remember, you can't see around mountain curves and corners.
Source: Local law enforcement and the Colorado Department of Transportation
At about 10:27 a.m. Monday, a 41-year-old man lost control of his 1999 Dodge Durango on eastbound U.S. Highway 40, slid left across the road and rolled his vehicle into a ditch.
Colorado State Trooper Chris Lorio said the driver - who was transported to The Memorial Hospital immediately after extraction from the vehicle - did not appear to suffer life-threatening injuries.
However, the incident seemed indicative of a cause behind recent car accidents.
"People need to slow down," he said. "Even if it's not snowing outside : you need to slow down or you're going to end up in a ditch."
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta agreed and said the number of vehicle accidents has been noticeably higher in the past few weeks.
"People are driving like idiots," Vanatta said. "People are just not demonstrating much caution out there. I think the bulk of it is speed."
It's been a somewhat odd year for accidents, he added.
Normally, there's a spike around the first snowfall, then drivers get used to conditions and "adjust accordingly."
This year, however, people do not seem to be adjusting.
"In part, you get people with four-wheel drive who think they can drive fast, but they can't stop any faster than anyone else," Vanatta said. "The worst problem is people don't seem to have any tolerance for the roads being slick. They think it's OK to drive like they always drive.
"People just need to plan for more driving time. People just need to slow down."
According to Police Department records, there have been 33 vehicular accidents in the city since Dec. 22. There were 40 such accidents in the first three weeks of December.
Motor vehicle accidents
culminated somewhat Saturday, when a vehicle struck Police Officer Anthony Gianinetti while he stood on the side of Fourth Street.
Gianinetti was there investigating a hit-and-run, where it appeared someone lost control and ran up on the curb and into a fence. As he stood there, another vehicle came down the street, lost control and ran into him.
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said that in addition to speed, motorists should be aware they will need more time and distance to pass cars on single-lane roadways. Cars will be going slower and won't be able to make sharp cuts in current conditions.
Jantz added that part of the problem with the increased number of traffic accidents may be that roads aren't melting off like they usually do.
"Even last year, when we had that tough winter, the snow and icepack on the roads didn't stay as long as it has" the last few weeks, Jantz said.
Randy Call, city Road and Bridge Department director, described city roads as "snowpacked and slick in spots."
Call said it is difficult and costly to pick up snowpack - the icy, mashed-down result of traffic on snow. He added the City Council elected not to lay down chemical deicers because the products can get into residents' yards and ruin lawns or landscaping.
Usually, he added, the weather warms up and it melts before staying on roads too long. However, the city will step in if roads become too hazardous to navigate.
"If those streets get rough, we'll smooth them out," Call said. "But as far as peeling them down to bare asphalt, we don't do that."
The county Road and Bridge Department handles its paved roads the same way, Department Manager Linda DeRose said. Crews leave a solid layer of ice and snow on gravel roads so that machinery doesn't cut potholes.
Budget concerns may affect state highway maintenance in the future but not for the time being, said Nancy Shanks, Colorado Department of Transportation Western Slope public relations director.
Per the same policies as last year, highways 40 and 13 will be plowed 24 hours a day, with the exception of north Colo. 13 near the state line and west U.S. 40 near Dinosaur.
Those highway sections, as well as smaller state roads, likely won't be plowed during late-night hours, Shanks said.
"Snow and ice maintenance is definitely a top priority, certainly where public safety is concerned," she said.
However, she added that budget concerns may affect plow schedules and other plans in the event of a large storm when resources are demanded for the busiest roads.
Shanks encouraged drivers to check www.cotrip.org for the latest reports about road and weather conditions before traveling this winter.