Can troopers keep up with truckers?
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” Cpl. Larry Graves once worked eight consecutive, 10-hour days on a snowy interstate with cars zooming past him at 75 miles per hour.
Following one day off, Graves he worked five more 10-hour days, he said.
“It gets old driving ten hours in the snow,” Graves said.
That was before his son was born ” when he cut back his hours ” but other Eagle County troopers worked similar shifts on Interstate 70 last winter, he said.
Graves and others from the State Patrol like the idea of an increased number of state troopers on the freeway. Eagle County’s state representative Dan Gibbs wants those troopers to enforce his bill to increase fines for truckers that don’t use snow chains.
Gibbs wrote Gov. Bill Ritter last month asking that the number of troopers between Floyd Hill and Edwards be increased.
Ritter has until June 4 to consider the chain law legislation, said Evan Dreyer, spokesman for the governor. Ritter considers public safety a priority and would take a “serious look” at Gibbs’ request for more troopers, he said.
With a shortage of officers, the chain law can be tough to enforce and that means more traffic jams, said Sgt. Shawn Olmstead of the State Patrol.
Crashes in which people are hurt take priority, and attention diverted from enforcing the chain law can lead to accidents that close Vail Pass, he said.
“You won’t find any member of the State Patrol that wouldn’t say we couldn’t use more officers,” Olmstead said.
Gibbs’ bill would increase the penalty from $100 to $500 for commercial truck drivers caught without chains when storms require them, and from $500 to $1,000 for truck drivers who don’t chain up and block a lane of traffic as a result.
Gibbs points out that Vail Valley residents rely heavily on the interstate because of the lack of alternative routes. For instance, if the stretch through Dowd Junction shut down, people would have a hard time getting to the Vail Valley Medical Center in Vail, he said.
In 2006, stretches along Interstate 70 in the mountains were closed more than 100 times due to chain law violations, Gibbs said.
Last year, the State Patrol gave 346 ticket statewide for violating the chain law ” 215 of those included an additional citation for driving without chains past a sign alerting truckers chains were required.
Gibbs will attend a State Patrol budget conference later in May to request more troopers, he said.
Summit Daily News Staff Writer Nicole Formosa contributed to this article.