Twenty vehicles were involved in a snowy pile-up on Interstate 70 near Denver on November 24, reminding us that, once again: winter is upon us. Authorities stated that heavy snow and winds were contributing factors in the crash, which seems to have begun when a large truck jackknifed on the highway. 

Luckily, this accident only resulted in minor injuries although it did leave many drivers stranded on the highway. But accidents like this are all too common in the winter months, which is why we’ve compiled a list of winter driving tips to help keep you safe this winter. 

Watch for vehicle traction and chain laws

When bad weather hits, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) may institute either a Traction Law or Passenger Vehicle Chain Law. A Traction Law, or Code 15, requires that drivers on a given roadway either have:

  • Snow tires
  • A vehicle with four-wheel or all-wheel drive
  • Tires with mud/snow (M+S) designation

Even if you have the right tires, they also must have at least one-eighth of an inch of tread. 

Passenger Vehicle Chain Law, or Code 16, is the last resort before authorities close a roadway. If CDOT announces a Code 16, all vehicles on that roadway are required to have chains or some other type of traction device on their tires. 

Failure to follow these rules can result in hefty fines, up to $650 if your car blocks a roadway due to equipment failure. You can sign up for Traction and Chain law alerts through CDOT to stay on top of these requirements.  

Don’t crowd snowplows

Tailgating or improperly passing a snow plow is an easy way to get in a crash. According to CDOT, it is especially dangerous to attempt to pass snow plows that are working in a tandem/echelon formation. When snow plows are driving side by side, the spaces between them can have ridges of snow and poor visibility. Snow plows also may make sudden stops, so maintain plenty of space between you and the plow. 

Tailor driving to current conditions

When visibility is poor, it’s important to drive slow enough that you can see what’s ahead. On icy roads, leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. CDOT suggests avoiding peak travel times when the weather turns dicey to reduce traffic backups. 

Snowy weather is a part of life in Colorado. Whether you’ve lived here for 30 years or this is your first winter, these tips will help you stay safe on the road.  

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