The basics: having the right tires, checking the battery, paying attention to pedestrians and cyclists and, most importantly, slowing down.
We have definitely entered the snow season.
Maybe you’re a lifelong Denverite, or maybe you grew up in San Diego and refuse to set foot in a car at the sight of snow. Anyway, AAA spokesman Skyler McKinley calls winter driving in Colorado “a skill all its own.”
On another snowy day, here’s a refresher on snow driving for miles:
Make sure you have the right tires – and if you’ve been ignoring your tire pressure gauge, now is the time to take care of it. Also check your battery.
McKinley recommends having a dedicated set of snow or winter tires. If these are too expensive or you don’t have space to store them, he recommends all-season tires with at least mud and snow ratings (look out for M+S on the tire) that are treated to perform better in freezing temperatures.
“Having enough profile on those tires is key,” said McKinley. “Having enough pressure in those tires is key. Don’t forget the tire pressure warning light, which is of course an important safety indicator.”
If you’re unsure if your tires have enough traction, McKinley recommends the quarter test. Put a quarter in the tread of your tire and look for George Washington’s head. “If you can really see any part from above [Washington’s] Head, you don’t have enough tread, you should replace those tires,” he said.
In addition to tires, make sure your battery is in good condition as it is more likely to fail in cold weather. McKinley said AAA’s most common call is to help people with dead batteries.
Drive slower and increase the following distance regardless of the type of car you drive and the type of tires you have.
McKinley cited speeding as the leading cause of accidents and loss of traction.
“Even if you have the right equipment in perfect condition, you have to slow down,” he said. “No matter how well you think while driving, no matter how well you find your vehicle in winter weather.”
If you lose traction, remember to steer in the direction you want to go, don’t press the accelerator or brake, and move gradually.
Be extra careful on bridges and underpasses, and check state traction laws when driving into the mountains.
As Denver saw in the 100-car pile-up on 6th Avenue a few weeks ago, bridges and underpasses ice up first. McKinley said AAA also gets a lot of calls from drivers speeding on I-70 in snowy weather.
“It’s equal parts small sedans with all-season tires and big SUVs with snow tires, because a lot of that is just reckless driving,” he said.
If driving west, remember that I-70 from Dostero to Morrison has traction laws September 1 through May 31, and that the Colorado Department of Transportation may enforce traction laws on state highways elsewhere during storms. These laws require drivers to have one of the following:
- A four wheel drive or all wheel drive and a tread depth of 3/16 inch
- Tires with mud and snow markings and 3/16 inch tread depth
- Winter tires and 3/16 inch tread depth
- All-weather tires and 3/16 inch tread depth
- Chains or another approved means of traction
In the city, pay particular attention to cyclists and pedestrians.
Both groups only have limited visibility in the snow, cyclists and pedestrians are specially dressed in hats and scarves. There is also an increased risk of cars losing traction.
“Too often we blame pedestrians or cyclists for not doing enough when in reality it’s the cars that cause the deaths and it’s very, very rare that a pedestrian or cyclist is to blame for what’s happening out there.” , McKinley said.
In cold weather, McKinley also stressed the importance of thinking about others while driving and that insurance premiums could go up for everyone as accidents spike nationwide. And it’s already been a very deadly year for road deaths.
“What we really have is an epidemic of selfish driving,” he said. “When you get behind the wheel you really only think about yourself, which is why you’re speeding, why you might be texting, why you’re doing all the bad behavior that could lead to an accident, but that selfishness is costing us. ”