Vail Daily column: Follow the law on I-70
As a professional driver who spends significantly more time driving than the average person, I often face extraordinary situations on the road, especially during inclement weather. When I found out that there was a new law requiring certain equipment when the road is snow covered I was elated — no more needless collisions, closures and delays due to the ignorant and selfish who think the laws of physics don’t apply to them. Unfortunately, they also don’t believe the laws of Colorado apply to them either.
Whenever a Code15 is activated, all vehicles are required to have four-wheel or all-wheel drive, snow tires and/or chains. However you still see dozens of two-wheel-drve cars and vans sliding up the mountain at 5 mph and often getting stuck, spinning in place in the middle of the road.
On Sunday, Feb. 14, I counted 22 vehicles that shouldn’t have been on the road stuck in various places, including a Toyota Prius with stock tires that nearly caused a serious accident with a semi truck following behind it and the four cars in the other lane. As we are all well aware, safety issues aside, delays and road closures cause a significant negative economic impact on the community. Who is to blame for this issue and, more importantly, how do we fix it? Obviously, the drivers are the ones most at fault. However, they aren’t the only ones.
• Colorado Legislature: You took the first step by passing the Traction Law, however it needs to be amended. You have tied the hands of law enforcement by making violations a secondary offense. Instead of giving the police the authority to take unsafe vehicles off the road before they cause a collision, you require that they wait for the carnage. Checkpoints should be allowed to be set up to ensure vehicles are in compliance. You wouldn’t expect a police officer to have to wait for a drunk person to crash before stopping them, would you?
Make violations a primary offense, allow for equipment checkpoints, increase the fine so that it is not worth the risk and require the vehicle to be impounded until the roads clear up, as the owner clearly doesn’t have proper judgment to take possession of such a deadly weapon.
• Law Enforcement and Public Safety: Just because the legislature has neutered the enforcement of Traction Law violations doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can and should do. Awareness is important — there are many people (especially visitors) who don’t know what the law is, and the current effort is inadequate. You need bigger signs with clearer explanations and you need more of them. Every hotel should have pamphlets explaining the law.
Police officers should inform drivers of unsafe vehicles of the law when they come across them. You can also make a better effort to enforce other laws, specifically remaining in your lane, keeping traction with the road and driving too slowly in the left lane.
• Rental car companies: Stop renting cars without four-wheel or all-wheel drive and proper tires to people during the winter if they intend on driving in the mountains. Simply refuse to do business with the thickheaded customers who demand the cheapest economy sedan unless you want your vehicles to end up stranded, impounded or completely totaled. People who have flights to catch are more likely to ignore the vehicle restrictions and give you a big headache.
• Drivers: Follow the law — it is really that simple. You aren’t better than everyone else and just because you made it the past 10 times doesn’t mean you will this time. If you need to get somewhere but only have a two-wheel-drive car with street tires, then use an alternate form of transportation. The valley is full of options, including the Bustang, Mountain Shuttles and private SUV services.
Driving an unsafe vehicle in inclement weather is not much different than driving while intoxicated and should be treated as such.
Seth Levy is a resident of Gypsum and has spent most of his adult life working in the transportation industry.
Support Local Journalism
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User