By Gary Cutler
Colorado State Patrol
It’s that time of year again, which means snow storms are on the horizon. Bad weather isn’t all that bad, because with it comes all of the fun activities we like to do in Colorado such as skiing, sledding, skiing, hiking, and skiing/snowboarders.
I joke about the ski season, but when we see a good snow storm, that’s when skiers and snowboarders head to the slopes in larger groups than normal. Let’s talk about the situations where we just have to get around in snow storms.
Reduced speed is always a key factor to staying safe when driving on snow, or ice packed roadways. It’s winter, so make sure you take that extra step to have the time to drive to your destination safely, which means slower than normal speeds. Bad weather doesn’t necessarily mean we have to have bad driving.
One situation that worries me is black ice. Ice is the unseen danger that is often a factor in winter time driving. I’ve see people going lower speeds when they are on snow packed roads only to speed up to, or beyond the speed limit once the road clears. The road may still be wet, and with cold temperatures that means it can and often freezes to the road surface. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not still there.
Slick roads also mean it’s harder to stop when less than favorable road conditions exist. Give that extra distance needed to stop when snow or ice are present. It’s hard to give just one correct distance for bad road conditions. Use good common sense and the rule of thumb that it could take double the distance on wet roads and up to as much as 10 times the distance on snow and ice packed roadways to safely stop.
Also be prepared to travel in bad weather. This means having enough “survival gear” to make it through a dangerous situation if you get stuck on the roadway. This doesn’t always mean you’re stuck because you have crashed or slid off the roadway. It could be just that the weather is so bad the roadways have been shut down and you are stuck with everyone else traveling with no way to get off the road for a while.
Even when you are just going on a short trip, there can be situations where you need emergency equipment with you. The items that can save a life are: blankets, flares/emergency triangles, water, shovel, food/snacks, and cell phone. I probably don’t have to remind anyone to make sure they bring their phone though.
Here are my final tips for winter driving. When roads are dry, drive as if it’s raining. When roads are wet, drive as if it’s snowing. When roads have snow on it, drive as if it’s ice. When roads have ice on it, think about staying home that day.
So there you have it, a few simple tips to help keep you safe when driving in bad weather this year.
As always, safe travels!