Author Archives: Leadville Today

Trooper Tips: Older Drivers

By Master Trooper Gary Cutler

Driving is a feeling of freedom you get when you’re able to just travel wherever you wish.  But, there may come a point in time when either you or someone close to you must make the decision to put the keys away and find another way to commute.

Talking to an older person about their driving can be difficult and is often delayed until their driving is to a point of being dangerous.  But if delayed too long, it can be a hesitation that can turn fatal.

I speak from personal experience when I lost my grandmother in a crash.  The signs were there prior to the fatal crash, but we failed to see them as a serious enough problem and hesitated in having her stop driving.  It started with a few scratches here and there on the car, and pulling into the garage a little too far.  Perhaps, if we had acted upon those signs we may have had her around longer.

Years later when another driving situation approached my family, we didn’t hesitate to take action.  My father began to show signs of having trouble driving due to early-onset dementia and we took steps to keep him from driving and possibly hurting himself or someone else.  A problem you may face is the older driver believing they are driving fine, when in fact you are seeing dangerous problems.  I won’t tell you it was easy to have the conversation.  My father was upset with us for a while, but I would do it again to make sure it keeps everyone safe.

Older drivers get tips from Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler
Night driving can get tricky for older motorists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2018, 19% of all fatal crashes were caused by drivers 65 years and older.  Now this doesn’t mean just because you turn 65 you should have your driver’s license taken from you.  Far from it, it just means it’s time to start being aware of any changes.  For a start, keep track of eyesight, physical fitness, and reflexes.

Saguache Today columnist Trooper Gary Cutler is the Public Information Officer for the Colorado State Patrol. A Public Information Officer is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer media questions.

CDOT Issues Travel Advisory

The Colorado Department of Transportation advises travelers to use caution and plan ahead as an end-of-year winter storm will impact many areas of the state today and tomorrow. This storm will bring snowfall to much of Colorado through Saturday, with southwest and northeast Colorado seeing higher accumulations. Strong northerly winds are expected to develop on Saturday, leading to areas of blowing and drifting snow, with considerable travel impacts possible.  

Motorists should expect heavy traffic volumes on most roadways due to holiday travel. CDOT urges travelers to be prepared not only for possible delays, but also winter driving conditions. Extreme caution is advised if driving in the mountains. While packing vehicles with gifts and suitcases, make sure there is room for an emergency kit. Emergency kits should include chains/alternative traction devices, water, sand/cat litter, flares, jumper cables, blankets, etc. 

Motorists are urged to take it slow, leave a safe space behind the vehicle ahead, don’t pass plows and avoid driving during the height of a storm. Drivers should anticipate safety closures due to unsafe driving conditions. CDOT and CSP make every attempt to hold traffic in areas where services are available. While safety closures are more likely on mountain passes, they can happen on any roadway deemed unsafe for travel. Conditions at closure points may seem drivable, however, CDOT and CSP are keeping drivers away from areas with extreme conditions. Do not go around closure points and use extreme caution when using GPS suggested alternate routes to get around safety closures.

TRAVEL IMPACTS

Southwest Colorado: Heavy accumulations of snow will continue throughout the day today, as southwest mountain passes will see ten to 18 inches of new snow. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the southwest San Juan Mountains through 5 a.m. on Saturday. Travel could be difficult to impossible.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has also issued an avalanche watch for the southern San Juans. Avalanche danger is expected to be high due to heavy snowfall and strong winds. These conditions may call for avalanche control operations on US 160 Wolf Creek Pass; US 550 Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain Passes; and CO 145 Lizard Head Pass. High country travelers can expect delays. Visit COtrip.org for road conditions and avalanche control operations alerts. 

Northern Colorado: The northern plains will see significant impacts from this storm. The I-70/ I-76 corridor will likely see snow accumulations on Saturday between five to ten inches, with wind gusts expected over 40 mph. This will reduce visibility on the roadways. Motorists should be prepared for roadway closures and challenging driving conditions. 

I-70 Mountain Corridor: I-70 will see snowfall rates increase overnight tonight with total accumulation of three to six inches.

Front Range and I-25 corridor: Motorists should expect snow on the Front Range and I-25 corridor on Saturday, with moderate impacts. Depending on the storm’s track, accumulations may fluctuate. Denver Metro will see colder temperatures and two to four inches of snowfall is possible. The I-25 Gap project may see snow totals higher than the urban corridor, especially between Castle Rock to the crest of the Palmer Divide.  Motorists are advised to avoid or limit driving on I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, particularly on Monument Hill during the storm.  Safety closures are possible depending on the severity of the storm. Most crashes in this area occur due to driving too fast for the conditions, following too closely and vehicles not having the appropriate tires for the weather. I-25 Raton Pass in southeast Colorado could see snowfall in the area of four to seven inches. Wind will be a factor with this storm with gusts exceeding 30 mph, east of I-25.

SNOWSTANG

As an alternative to driving in the mountains this weekend and for greater peace of mind, motorists will be able to take advantage of CDOT’s recently introduced Snowstang. Snowstang will provide Saturday and Sunday roundtrip bus service between Denver and the Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin, Steamboat Resort, and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. 

CHAIN and TRACTION LAWS 

CDOT urges travelers to be aware of chain and traction law codes before heading out on the roadway.

  • Code 18/Commercial Chain Law: Commercial vehicles and trucks must have chains. Vehicles without chains can often lose traction, causing traffic delays and sometimes road closures. For the safety of the traveling public, it’s critical to use chains to be in compliance with Colorado’s chain law.
  • Code 15/Passenger Traction Law: All passenger vehicles must have appropriate all-weather tires with 3/16-inch depth. Vehicles must have one of the following: winter tires, tires with mud/snow (M+S) designation, chains or alternative traction devices such as an autosock. 4WD and AWD vehicles must have winter tires or all weather tires.
  • Code 16/Passenger Chain Law: All passenger vehicles need chains, except for 4WD and AWD vehicles with all-weather tires with 3/16 inch tread depth.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:

ABOUT CDOT

CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees located throughout Colorado, and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated inter-regional express service. Governor Jared Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s inter-modal mobility options.