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Winter Driving Safety

Winter driving in Colorado on roads and highways in the snowcapped mountains can be a pleasant adventure or it can be frustrating, tiring and sometimes even hazardous. We really want you to enjoy your ski vacation, so we put together some winter driving tips.

Winter conditions can change rapidly. A road can become a sheet of ice in minutes. Sudden snow squalls can reduce visibility to near zero in seconds.

Make sure conditions on the highway you will be traveling are favorable. For safety's sake, slow down and plan ahead. Be prepared to wait on traffic, sometimes even in perfect weather.

A Very Important Thing To Remember!

No matter how fast you can drive your vehicle in snow, that
has no correlation whatsoever to how fast you can stop
or how well you can maneuver.

Why? It's a matter of traction. Grip. Tire adhesion. If you think of a dry road as obtaining 100 percent traction, a slightly wet road might offer only 25 percent or less, a really wet road about 5 percent, and a snowy road around .5 percent. An icy surface is maybe .005 percent to nil. With 5 percent of potential traction, you can get a vehicle moving quite well -- and quite fast. Momentum helps.

Remember that most of the power used under way is merely pushing air out of the way. Even with only that .005 percent of grip, you can get the vehicle moving.

But, when you introduce a sudden steering correction or braking, momentum suddenly is working against you. With only 5 percent of grip, you will be sliding a helluva long way before any real braking takes place; by the time steering becomes effective, you will have already hit whatever you were trying to avoid -- even with ABS.

If in spite of your precautions you find yourself beginning to skid, DO NOT BRAKE. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and gently turn your car in the direction you want your front wheels to to go.

Hitting the brakes or turning sharply will only lock you into a skid. If you can't get control of your car it is better to steer into a snow bank or fence than to risk a collision in traffic.

Slow down. A highway speed of 55 mile an hour may be safe in dry weather but an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead.

Bridge decks and shady spots can be icy when other areas are not. Remember to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes. If you get stuck in snow, avoid spinning your wheels - you'll only dig in deeper. Instead, shovel snow away from the wheel paths and pour salt, sand, or cinders around the drive wheels to improve traction.


Think like a pilot. Pilots plan their trips thoroughly and check weather advisories both en route and at the final destination. Keep your vehicle in top shape, allow extra time and space on the road. Listen to radio stations or weather-monitor channels.

If you are traveling to an unfamiliar area, you can get advisory telephone numbers regarding closed-road and impending road-closure information from either the state highway patrol, or the local phone book.

Be sure to bring your cell phone, if you have one. Another great great source of information is talking to motorists driving in the opposite direction using your ham, GMRS or CB radio. Get off the road before you get stranded by worsening weather conditions.

Before Heading for Snow Country: Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system are in top condition.

Check your antifreeze and be ready for colder temperatures. You may want to add special solvent to your windshield washer reservoir to prevent icing. Check your tires. Make sure they are the properly inflated and the tread is in good condition.

Take extra water, food and warm blankets. A lengthy delay will make you glad you have them. Since your going on a skiing trip you will most likely have plenty of warm clothing along.

But remember to check on others who are going with you who may not be skiing that day although they enjoy being out in the beauty of the mountains. They need to have extra winter clothing along for their protection too.

Beware of car exhaust fumes. When you are stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth, but be alert to any possible exhaust or monoxide problems.

Getting sleepy is frequently a sign of carbon monoxide problems. Crack a window open and keep some fresh air coming into the vehicle.

Put an extra car key in your pocket. A number of motorists have locked themselves out of their cars when putting on chains and at ski areas.

Allow enough time. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter than other times of year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.

Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.

Keep windshield and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe turnout to use a snow or, ice or scraper. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog. Visibility is another big hazard of winter driving. In heavy snow, keep you lights on. Stop and clean your windshield and lights if necessary.

Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles and for snow equipment. Even though snow removal vehicles have flashing lights, visibility may be so restricted during a storm that it is difficult to see the slow moving equipment.

Always carry chains. Make sure they are the proper size for your tires and are in working order. You might also want to take along a flashlight and chain repair links. Chains must be installed on the drive wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive.

When you must put on chains, wait until you can pull completely off the roadway to the right. Do not stop in a traffic lane where you will endanger yourself and block traffic. When removing chains, drive to a pull-off area where you can safely remove them.

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