Highway News: Sheep and Shutdowns

Crews with the Chaffee County Fire Protection District asisist with gathering up of more than 200 sheep which were scattered along Highway 285 atop Poncha Pass on March 3, 2020 after a trailer rolled over dumping its cargo.

The highways in and out of Saguache County were busy last Tuesday, March 3 as two crashes were reported before noon, according to Colorado State Patrol Public Information Officer Master Trooper Gary Cutler.

At 7:57 a.m. on Tuesday, March 3 a sheep trailer was traveling northbound on Highway 285, when it rolled at mile post 120 just past the top of Poncha Pass.  The good news is that 206 sheep survived and were transported to the fairgrounds in Chaffee County. In addition Trooper Cutler was able to report that the 47-year-old male driver only had minor injuries but was cited for the crash, although the cause has not been identified. Because livestock was involved – including some animals that perished in the accident – a state brand inspector was also called to the scene, although that report was not available at the time of this post (March 6, 2020).

Additionally, it was reported that a Brand Inspector with the Colorado Department of Agriculture was on scene of the accident. According to Brand Inspector Chris Whitney, “A brand inspector did come to the scene after the accident to help the State Patrol handle the animals and transport them to the Fairgrounds. He was not there in an official capacity, because ownership of the sheep was well established. Rather, he just came to help out.”

The major thoroughfare in and out of Saguache County was closed for more than 3 hours as local ranchers arrived on the scene to help with some of the injured and loose livestock.

A trailer rollover on March 3 had Highway 285 closed at Poncha Pass for 3 hours as crews gathered up more than 200 sheep (some didn’t make it) that were scattered along the road.

For some motorists impeded by the closure of Highway 285, the alternative route suggested for travelers trying to head south, Highway 50 over Monarch Pass, had its own challenges. Another road closure was reported at milepost 190 several miles before the town of Sargents. According to CSP Trooper Cutler, “It came in at 08:00 and was some type of service truck that had rolled off the road and covered in about 6 feet of snow.” The sizeable vehicle which was driven by a 27-year-old male who left the scene uninjured, “possibly to get help.” According to authorities, it took a rotator tow truck to get the disabled vehicle out, closing the highway temporarily. 

A rotator tow truck was needed to get this service truck back upright, shutting down Highway 50 west of Monarch Pass on March 3. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

With spring break traffic about to wind up in the San Luis Valley, motorists are asked to use caution and alternate travel times to non-peak hours when possible. Travel safe and be sure to know before you go by logging on to the Colorado Department of Transportation official website for the most up-to-the-minute road conditions at cotrip.org.

“Just Concentrate”

By Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol

Recently I was fortunate enough to travel to New Zealand.  I tell you this, not to make you envious (you should be though, it’s an amazing country), but to of course bring to light new driving tips.

Now I have to say I’ve been driving for decades and have extensive additional emergency driver training, but I have never had to drive on the left side of the roadway, or sit on the right side of the car with a steering wheel in front of me.

The amount of concentration it takes to make a proper turn, or just driving back onto the roadway coming from say a parking lot and making sure I was on the correct side was huge.  Every time I did something, I had to concentrate and give the action my full attention.  Why? Because it was something new, and not just an old routine.

Even something as simple as using the turn signal lever took concentration. I found that the steering wheel is not the only thing not located on the “correct side”.  There were quite a few times I notified the drivers around me that I was going to turn by indicating it with a swoosh of the windshield wipers.  I’m sure over the years New Zealanders have learned that if someone has their windshield wipers on when it’s a clear day, they must be going to make a turn at some point.

With that said, I’m always thinking about what my next topic will be for Trooper Tips, and being on vacation doesn’t deter that.  So, while sitting in the hotel after a day of driving down the road with my windshield wipers on I thought how can I turn this into an article.

It’s spring break travel time on the roadways!

Concentration came to my mind.  I thought if we focused on driving more and didn’t concern ourselves with the little things that take away that focus things on the road will be better.  Concentration could eliminate many if not all of our crashes.  Concentrating on your surroundings by looking for road debris, animals, pot holes, and stop signs, allows you to able to react sooner than later, and thus eliminating a crash.

Concentrating on your speed, turn signals, and side view mirrors, instead of the radio, heater, phone, and the drink in the center console will continue to help eliminate those crashes.

Take that extra time to think about what you are doing and don’t let it be a secondary thought or habit.  Make it the priority.  It is easy to let things we’ve been doing for years slide to the background and not something we concentrate on.

I know I give a lot more attention to my turn signal lever these days.

As always, safe travels!

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