Legislation may require traction equipment for I-70 winter driving
March 5, 2015
Craig — Colorado residents may soon have to invest in snow tires or tire chains if they plan on traveling the Interstate 70 mountain corridor between November and May 15.
Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, introduced House Bill 15-1173 on Jan. 29 requiring that passenger vehicles be equipped with a certain tire tread, four wheel drive or tire chains when driving through the I-70 mountain corridor between Morrison and Dostero.
If a passenger vehicle does not have proper equipment and causes a traffic problem or accident on the interstate, the same fines from the "chain law" apply. Motorists are fined $100 if they cause an accident and $500 if they cause a lane closure under Rankin and Mitsch-Bush's bill.
The new law would not require highway patrol to create checkpoints or stop travelers unnecessarily. People will only be fined if they cause an accident or a traffic tie-up, Rankin said.
The current "chain law" is confusing to motorists, Rankin said; it requires passenger vehicles to use traction equipment only when the "chain law" is in effect. The new bill would require travelers to at least carry traction equipment with them during the November to May 15 time period.
Last year on Feb. 9, a heavy snowstorm hit Colorado and caused 54 passenger vehicles to spin out, said Colorado Department of Transportation Director of Communications Amy Ford. CDOT assisted 22 out of the 54 vehicles and 19 of the 22 had bald or almost completely bald tires, Ford said.
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More importantly, 18 of those 19 with bald tires were cars with Colorado plates. None of the cars with Colorado plates and bald tires were rental cars, either.
"So when we look at the problem it's really us; not people who are from out of state that don't know how to drive on our winter roads," Ford said.
HB15-1173 would have economic and safety benefits for the state of Colorado and travelers on I-70, Rankin said.
"If you go up one time skiing and you get caught in one of these traffic jams, you won't go again," he said. "If tourists have more confidence they can drive on our roads in the winter time without a major tie up then they are more likely to come here."
People don't have the right to endanger others, and this legislation is more of a public information campaign than anything, Rankin said.
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid wouldn't vote for the bill if he were a member of Colorado's General Assembly.
"I think it's more of what they would call nanny-state regulations and rules," Kinkaid said. "It strikes me as piling on unnecessarily and I'm not sure it would make things better."
The legislation "instructs" the CDOT to notify drivers via signage about the requirements. The signs would be placed in the "appropriate places," according to the legislation text.
CDOT is in favor of any legislation that "puts a very fine point on the fact that people need the right tires to drive on I-70 corridor," Ford said.
This requirement for passenger vehicles would be a pilot program and if it were successful in reducing travel time and wintertime accidents on I-70, "the general assembly intends to expand the program with future legislation to cover other 16 problematic highways," according to the legislation.
For more information about traveling on I-70 during the winter, visit https://www.codot.gov/travel/winter-driving/tires.