Four Colorado State Patrol vehicles have been struck by out-of-control drivers on I-70 mountain corridor this week
Officers reminding everyone to be careful as road conditions set to worsen on Friday
When Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jacob Best’s cruiser was sideswiped Sunday during the snowstorm on the Interstate 70 mountain corridor, that was the least of the damage.
“Not 30 seconds after that, a vehicle in the right lane lost control, and came into the scene and rear-ended my vehicle, which almost struck another trooper who was on foot,” Best said.
It was one of four separate incidents in which State Patrol vehicles have been struck by motorists on the I-70 mountain corridor between Eisenhower tunnel and Glenwood Springs this week. Two incidents happened on Sunday, and two more happened on Monday, Best said.
Two highway patrol officers have had minor injuries; Best said the incidents serve as a reminder to everyone else of how dangerous conditions are for those working I-70 this week.
“We’re just asking for everyone’s patience and to slow down and drive with due regard, so everyone gets to their destination safely,” Best said.
‘Violators are Colorado residents’
Best said the vehicle that sideswiped his patrol cruiser was being driven by an Eagle County resident. The tires on the vehicle were “completely bald,” Best said.
“Sometimes, the visitors are blamed for these closures or spun-out vehicles, but to be frankly honest, the majority of violators that we are dealing with are Colorado residents,” Best said.
Best was working with a single-lane open on the interstate when his vehicle was hit, and he said it’s a good example of why first responders often opt to close the highway altogether rather than deal with the danger of a single-lane open situation.
“These safety closures have helped us in the long run, reducing closure times,” Best said.
That’s what happened in Monday’s extended closure of I-70 in Vail, when a one-hour scheduled closure for avalanche mitigation turned into a three-hour closure.
“A multi-car crash in Officer’s Gulch was what extended that closure out, it didn’t actually have anything to do with the avalanche clearing,” Best said. “We were clearing the crashes in Summit County, and as a precaution we closed it in Vail.”
In the hours before Monday’s extended closure, another closure had occurred on Vail Pass when a crash on the westbound side of I-70 closed the interstate heading into Vail.
“Just near the top of the pass, we had a truck going slow, and another truck swerve to miss that truck, and it ended up in the snowbank with another car going in the other snowbank,” Best said. “We had to get tows in there to pull them out backwards.”
No major Vail Pass closures since Monday
While the miserable Monday appeared to be a harbinger of what would follow during the busy holiday week, Best on Thursday said thankfully no major incidents have occurred since then on Vail Pass.
“We’ve had some little safety closures, either for zero visibility or for the brief removal of a vehicle, but that has been it,” Best said.
Best said he is keeping his fingers crossed with hopes that drivers remain careful with another busy travel weekend looming, and more extreme weather in the forecast.
“They’re predicting poor road conditions, and if the roads are poor, we’re encouraging people to stay home if travel is not necessary,” Best said.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the area to last through 5 a.m. Saturday.
Meteorologist Kris Sanders with the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service said travel conditions will be the worst on Friday.
“If you haven’t left yet, you might want to do so very quickly,” Sanders said on Thursday afternoon. “Things are going to ramp up this evening, overnight and continue tomorrow.”
Sanders said by Saturday morning, road conditions might start to get better.
“It might continue to snow on Vail Pass and over to Eisenhower, but I’d say by Saturday morning it’s going to be pretty light stuff, I’m sure the road crews can manage it.”
Best said he recommends COTrip.org for the latest info in highway conditions.
“Visit CoTrip.org and plan accordingly,” he said. “As Colorado residents, we should be the ambassadors and the examples of proper mountain-snowy-roadway driving.”