Trooper Tips: Traction Laws
By Master Trooper Gary Cutler
It’s that time of year again, so we need to address snowstorms and driving in them. This year there has been some confusion with the new traction laws that travelers will be facing. So I’m here to help answer some of those questions.
Most of the focus for the traction law has been about I-70 in the mountains, but this can pertain to any of Colorado’s roadways that the state is responsible to maintain.
Let’s start from the beginning; commercial vehicles are required to have chains on their vehicles from September 1st. through May 31st on I-70 between milepost 133 (Dotsero) and milepost 259 (Morrison) but this part does not pertain to passenger vehicles.
Now let’s look at passenger vehicles. As a driver of a passenger vehicle, you will need to be aware when traction law is being implemented. The state will usually put this information on Variable Message Signs (VMS) along the roadways, or on CDOT’s web page. When this happens you need to be concerned with Code 15 and 16 which pertain to all passenger vehicles. The traction law will usually be implemented when you see snow starting to accumulate on the roadway. Code 15 is the first level which basically says passenger vehicles need to have at least one-eighth inch of tread on all tires. You will also have to have either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow (M+S) designation, four-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive.
When Code 16 is implemented, this is a last-ditch attempt to keep the roadway open. So now there will be a larger amount of snow on the roadway and means all vehicles will need to have chains or an alternative traction device (ATD) such as Autosocks. It doesn’t matter if have four-wheel drive; you need to have chains on your tires.
Now earlier I mentioned passenger cars are not required to carry chains or ATD’s in their vehicles during the aforementioned time frame, but here’s the kicker. If the chain law is enacted after you are in the mountains you will not be able to access the roadway and may have to wait until the chain law is lifted to get to your destination. So if you don’t plan on carrying chains or ATD’s make sure you plan ahead prior to making your trips into the mountains.
The traction laws will be enforced and if you have inadequate equipment during the traction law you may be fined more than $130.00. If you fail to comply with the mandatory chain law and you end up stuck and blocking the roadway you may be fined more than $650.00.
The reason for the chain law is for safety and not to inconvenience other drivers by having vehicles that are ill-equipped for the weather and road conditions which end up blocking other travelers.
I hope this has helped out some of your question my office has been fielding the past few weeks.
As always, safe travels!