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Special to the Herald Times
RBC I Winter weather is coming after a November of unseasonably warm weather and the Colorado Department of Transportation is encouraging drivers to prepare for winter driving conditions.
During a winter storm, CDOT maintenance crews are on standby for round-the-clock patrol shifts. Maintenance area crews are out on 24-hour operation—typically on rotating 12-hour shifts—until they reach dry road conditions. This means that during a storm, at least half the crew members on each patrol are out at any given time, some overlapping their shifts to keep coverage consistent. And, when warranted, avalanche control crews are working together with forecasters to trigger avalanches before they can run naturally.
Motorists should be aware the Traction Law (Code 15) and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law (Code 16) will be implemented as conditions require. When either law is in effect, highway signage will be activated.
n Traction Law: Motorists will need snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel drive vehicle—all tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
n Passenger Vehicle Chain Law: Every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).
Without proper equipment, you can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.
“We encourage motorists to slow down and drive for the conditions,” said Mike Goolsby, CDOT maintenance superintendent for Section 2, “especially when approaching our plow trucks, take it slow and give our plows room to work.”
“Motorists should check the tread on their tires before heading into winter weather in the event the traction law or passenger vehicle chain law is implemented,” stated Mark Eike, maintenance superintendent for Section 6 in Craig. “Motorists who have taken the time to prepare their vehicles for winter weather will have a much better time navigating the conditions that change so rapidly.”
The west maintenance area includes patrols in: Maybell, Skull Creek, Craig East, Hayden, Steamboat Springs, Yampa, Meeker, Rifle and Rangely. The West Maintenance Area has 44 maintenance workers and 29 pieces of snow removal (including 29 snowplows, all of which are equipped with *MDSS). Twelve trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt for providing traction. Ten loaders and eight graders assist in the snow removal process. West area maintenance crews take care of 1107.035 lane-miles. Total winter budget is $1,913,214.14.
*Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), installed on many CDOT plow trucks throughout the state, combines advanced weather and road condition prediction and rules of practice for anti-icing and deicing to generate road treatment recommendations on a route-by-route basis. The goal of MDSS is to provide more effective use of maintenance resources in order to increase safety, reliability and mobility on roadways. The MDSS system allows CDOT crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate. After comparing the information to 15 weather reports, the system will then provide suggested treatments based on the information and models. The system may tell the operator to re-treat the road at a later time, apply different products at different rates or even to continue current procedures. The suggested treatment can then be followed or the operator can override the system.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has broad authority to close any portion of a state highway to traffic due to a natural disaster, weather conditions or any other emergency circumstances resulting in making road conditions unsafe for travel by motor vehicles. That authority includes closing a road to traffic if adequate tire chains or snow tires are determined to be necessary.
The public can view snow plow locations on any device by clicking cotrip.org/snowplow.htm#/snowplow (also see upper right hand corner ofcotrip.org menu). Using this information, motorists will be able to see plows’ current locations, their travel speed and direction they are traveling. Plows that have not moved for more than 16 minutes will not be visible.
Visit CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org; sign up for “CDOT Alerts” in your chosen area by going to www.codot.gov and choosing the white envelope at the bottom of the page; log onto CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: www.codot.gov/travel/winter-driving for road conditions winter driving tips and other information; or for I-70 West Mountain Corridor travel, go here: goi70.com/.
Be sure you have good snow tires. How do you know if you need new snow tires? Insert a quarter into the tire tread upside down, with Washington’s head going in first; if the top of George’s head is covered by the tread, your tires are OK (do this test in multiple points around each tire.) If the top of his head is visible at any point, you need new tires.
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.
If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle’s safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock deicer.
Remember that 4-wheel drive does not mean 4-wheel stop. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.
Drive for the conditions. In poor visibility or even whiteout conditions, don’t drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents.
Respect winter weather. Conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, and leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road (including plow trucks). Of course, always buckle up!