I know it’s hard to believe, but this weekend’s forecast has a chance for snow. With snowfall comes different duties for the police department. The bears will hibernate, and the roads will start to look like an ice-skating rink.
Driving and activities surrounding driving become much more treacherous during the winter. We inevitably respond to many more preventable accidents in the winter than during dry summer months.
The biggest factor in preventable accidents is speed while driving on snow and ice. I can’t stress that enough: The faster you go, the more likely you are to lose control.
It doesn’t matter if you have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. While these systems will help you maintain more control during acceleration and some cornering, they do little to assist you when stopping or trying to make evasive maneuvering.
Slow down when weather conditions and road conditions are poor. Give yourself more room when driving in these conditions. Don’t follow the car in front of you too closely. This probably is the worst violated traffic law in Durango. You should be three seconds behind the vehicle in front of you during dry conditions and six to eight seconds behind during icy or snowy conditions.
Make sure you allow extra time for your commute when the weather is bad. Often, we overlook common sense in driving when we are running late.
And one final note on driving during bad weather is to make sure all of your windows and mirrors are clear of ice and snow.
Snow routes often are declared during heavy snowstorms. We often tow many cars out of snow routes so that plow operators can safely clear the streets. During very bad storms, city crews will work around the clock to clear streets and try to keep up with snowfall accumulations. The no-parking signs between 2 and 5 a.m. are for street-maintenance purposes. This is when the street sweepers or snowplows are clearing the downtown area.
Plan ahead and do not leave your vehicle parked in these areas overnight. During summertime, we ticket these vehicles; however, during the winter months, many of them are towed at the owner’s expense. The snow routes are marked, and maps can be accessed on the city’s website.
Section 21 of Durango’s municipal code addresses clearing sidewalks of snow. It states that it shall be the duty of the owner, tenant and occupant of any premises, abutting or adjoining any public sidewalk, to remove all snow and ice from sidewalks. This is done for many safety reasons and so the city can remain compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Officers generally give residents 24 hours to remove snow and ice from sidewalks; however, in the downtown area, it is required to be done immediately because of the heavy pedestrian traffic. Failure to comply can result in a citation and fines.
As you are enjoying all the splendor that winter in the San Juan Mountains can offer, keep these things in mind so your snow days can be fun-filled instead of frustrating.
Lt. Ray Shupe is assistant operations division commander with the Durango Police Department.