Brush Up on Winter Driving Safety
Colorado, we’ve had our first snow of the season, which means that it’s time to get your car and driving skills in shape for winter driving! In Colorado in 2022, 35% of crashes reported to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) occurred in the winter months, December through March. It’s more than the crashes reported during the busy summer travel months, June through September, when more people are on the roads and traveling longer distances. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 17% of all vehicle crashes occur during winter driving conditions.
We’ve all been there – wondering if the minivan behind you will stop in time when it’s icy, trying to avoid the car in front of you with snow blowing off its roof, watching the truck next to you struggle to navigate hidden lane markers. Driving in the winter in Colorado is no joke—drivers must be extra prepared and extra cautious.
Step 1: Prepare your vehicle for winter
According to CDOT, the first thing you should do at this time of year is to prepare your vehicle. Don’t delay getting that maintenance or addressing that manufacturer recall. You’ll want to make sure your brakes, battery, lights, heating system, windshield wipers, antifreeze, and tires (read on to learn more about tires!) are in good working order and ready for ice and snow. Fill up your windshield wiper fluid, and it’s even a good idea to carry an extra container in your car.
Step 2: Create your emergency kit
An emergency kit is an excellent idea and although we at Ready Law hope you never need it, you’ll be grateful that you spent the time preparing if the time comes. Must-haves include a sturdy snow scraper to remove snow and ice from your windshield and all around your car (yes, you need to do the roof, hood, and trunk too). You should also consider the following:
- First aid kit
- Blanket or sleeping bag – this can come in really handy if you are in an accident or you witness an accident and someone experiencing injury or trauma needs to be kept warm
- Gallon jug of water
- Flashlight with extra batteries or crank power
- Tire chains and tow strap
- Jumper cables
- Flares / reflectors to signal for help
- Battery or crank-powered radio
- Extra set of clothes or gloves, hats, coats, etc.
- Hand warmers
- Snacks like granola bars
- Non-clumping kitty litter to help with traction
Step 3: Remember your winter driving do’s and don’ts
- Take extra time to clear your car of ice and snow – this will help your visibility and that of cars around you
- Take only one driving action at a time: accelerate, turn, or brake. When you do more than one of these at a time in ice and snow, you can cause slide-outs, spinouts, or other dangerous situations.
- Switch to a lower gear when going downhill and gently tap your brakes
- Keep your momentum going when traveling uphill to avoid getting stuck
- Leave plenty of space between you and other cars to ensure you have time to stop if the vehicle ahead of you stops suddenly or loses control
- Keep your headlight beams low at night when it’s snowing; high beams can reflect off snow and decrease your visibility
- Slow down – drive for the conditions; going too fast causes most crashes in winter
- Wear your seat belt
- Keep right except to pass, following Colorado’s Left Lane Law
- Plan ahead: checking road conditions and planning a route can really pay off to avoid dangerous areas or unplowed roads
- Drive while impaired; watch out for those holiday celebrations and ensure you only get in cars with designated drivers. To report a suspected drunk or impaired driver in Colorado, dial *CSP to reach the Colorado State Patrol or *DUI to reach the drunk driving hotline.
- Get distracted while driving; you’ll have less time to react and stop before your vehicle is out of control. Other drivers are also more unpredictable in winter conditions, and you need to stay alert.
- Get out of your car if you encounter a multi-vehicle crash or if you are in a collision. You are safer inside your car than on the roadway.
- Cut in front of other vehicles, especially when it may be hard for other vehicles to stop, or bigger vehicles may require more time or room to stop. Allow extra space when conditions are rough.
What about traction and chain laws?
In Colorado, when winter conditions exist, drivers have to comply with the Passenger Vehicle Traction Law. During these times, all drivers are required to have either:
- Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle and 3/16” tread depth
- Tires with a mud and snow designation and 3/16” tread depth
- Winter tires and 3/16” tread depth
- Tires with an all-weather rating and 3/16” tread depth
- Chains or an approved alternative traction device
Drivers who do not have one of these could be fined more than $130, and more if he or she blocks a roadway because they have inadequate equipment when a Traction/Chain Law is in effect.
I’ve been injured – what do I do?
If you have been injured in a collision that isn’t your fault, call Vern Ready as soon as your medical situation is stable. Winter driving conditions of snow, sleet, cold, and ice pose unique challenges to our roadways and residents, and you might be unsure how the conditions could affect your case. Insurance companies may try to use the conditions as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility or to downplay the harm you have suffered. I have extensive experience holding insurance companies to their promises and at-fault drivers accountable, and I fight to get the best possible outcome for my clients. Your consultation with me is free and you are under no obligation to do anything but discuss your options. Call 303-339-8846 to get help today. You can also schedule your free consultation with me at my office or on Zoom/Facetime/Webex by clicking here.