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Colorado Department of Transportation examines winter driving in video series

Documentary-style shorts seek to raise awareness about being prepared
Colorado Department of Transportation has launched a new winter driving safety campaign to prepare drivers for the coming season. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

With winter well on its way, the Colorado Department of Transportation launched an educational video series this week about safe practices for winter driving.

The series is called “Winter Driving in the Wild.” The first video is narrated by a David Attenborough-esque voice.

“The whole point of this campaign is to focus on driver behavior,” said CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes. “It’s driver behavior that is behind many of our crashes that happen. Whether it’s driving distracted or driving under the influence, or just driving unprepared.”

CDOT released the first video in the series on Monday, and will continue to release more as winter approaches.

The series will include videos about the passenger vehicle traction law, tire and snowplow safety, winter preparedness tips and a guide for winter driving resources.

“Motorists who are unprepared for winter road conditions create dangerous situations for themselves and everyone on the road, not to mention the extended delays we see from spinouts, slide-offs and crashes,” said Andrew Hogle, CDOT public information officer, in a news release.

In Southwest Colorado, CDOT recognizes five highly traveled mountain roads as major passes, including Red Mountain, Coal Bank, Molas, Lizard Head and Wolf Creek.

Schwantes said Wolf Creek Pass is typically the most dangerous of the major passes in Southwest Colorado.

“U.S. Highway 160 Wolf Creek Pass is very nice and wide in some areas, which makes the pass very deceiving for you to gain speed as you head down the pass from the summit,” she said.

While not one of the area’s major passes, Schwantes said Hesperus Hill is another area that drivers should be mindful of this winter.

“Hesperus Hill is 1,000 feet higher than Durango, so it will get double the amount of snow that the city of Durango will get,” she said. “Even heading 15 miles west out of Durango, folks need to be prepared for a change in weather and road conditions.”

CDOT reminds drivers that having proper traction for winter weather is not just safe, it’s the law.

When a passenger vehicle traction law is in effect, all drivers are required to have proper tires or chains for their vehicle.

In a January 2020 study, CDOT found that 91% of in-state vehicles surveyed were in compliance with the passenger vehicle traction law, and 86% of out-of-state vehicles were in compliance.

“The Traction Law is activated for safety and efficiency purposes,” Hogle said. “If everyone on the road has adequate tires and tread, then we’ll see fewer crashes and reduce delay times.”

Before traveling this winter, CDOT recommends checking weather conditions, planning a route in advance, checking tires and knowing the laws.

While on the road, CDOT asks drivers to make sure headlights are on, and keep speeds consistent with visibility of the road ahead.

It’s illegal to pass a snowplow when it is operating its lights, or when it’s operating in a tandem formation with one or more snowplows.

CDOT has a number of online resources for drivers to stay up to date on things like road conditions, travel alerts and scheduled lane closures.


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