Tag Archives: Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler

Bad Weather Driving Safety Tips

Bad Weather Driving – Some Call It Ski Season

By Trooper Gary Cutler

It’s that time of year again, which means snow storms are on the horizon.  Bad weather isn’t all that bad, because with it comes all of the fun activities we like to do in Colorado such as skiing, sledding, skiing, hiking, and skiing/snowboarders.

I joke about the ski season, but when we see a good snowstorm, that’s when skiers and snowboarders head to the slopes in larger groups than normal.  Let’s talk about the situations where we just have to get around in snow storms.

Reduced speed is always a key factor in staying safe when driving on snow, or ice packed roadways.  It’s winter, so make sure you take that extra step to have the time to drive to your destination safely, which means slower than normal speeds.  Bad weather doesn’t necessarily mean we have to have bad driving.

One situation that worries me is black ice.  Ice is the unseen danger that is often a factor in winter time driving.  I’ve seen people going lower speeds when they are on snow packed roads only to speed up to, or beyond the speed limit once the road clears.  The road may still be wet, and with cold temperatures, that means it can and often freezes to the road surface.  Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not still there.

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The Veterans Day storm left roads icy and snow packed on Monday morning across the San Luis Valley.

Slick roads also mean it’s harder to stop when less than favorable road conditions exist.  Give that extra distance needed to stop when snow or ice is present.  It’s hard to give just one correct distance for bad road conditions.  Use good common sense and the rule of thumb that it could take double the distance on wet roads and up to as much as 10 times the distance on snow and ice packed roadways to safely stop.

Also be prepared to travel in bad weather.  This means having enough “survival gear” to make it through a dangerous situation if you get stuck on the roadway.  This doesn’t always mean you’re stuck because you have crashed or slid off the roadway.  It could be just that the weather is so bad the roadways have been shut down and you are stuck with everyone else traveling with no way to get off the road for a while.

Even when you are just going on a short trip, there can be situations where you need emergency equipment with you.  The items that can save a life are blankets, flares/emergency triangles, water, shovel, food/snacks, and cell phone.  I probably don’t have to remind anyone to make sure they bring their phone though.

Here are my final tips for winter driving.  When roads are dry, drive as if it’s raining.  When roads are wet, drive as if it’s snowing.  When roads have snow on it, drive as if it’s ice.  When roads have ice on it, think about staying home that day.

So there you have it, a few simple tips to help keep you safe when driving in bad weather this year. As always, safe travels!

Roll Over_saguache Sheriff

On November 11, the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office reported this one car rollover on CO Highway 285 at mile marker 107, just North of Villa Grove. A reminder to practice safe driving habits as the icy winter months come on. Photo SCSO

 

 

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Saguache News – October 8

Bus Stops: It’s All About the Kids

By Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol

It’s that time of year when the trees lose their leaves and parents lose their kids to the school system.  This means we have kids all over the place going to school along with other activities and that means we need to be more careful out there when driving, particularly around school buses.flying20wheel_jpg (1)

We’ve all seen those big yellow school buses with the red flashing lights and the stop sign that extends out of the left side.  Today, we look at what you should do when you see those all so important lights.

First, let’s look at how buses operate.  When making a stop, buses should try to stop as far right of the roadway as possible to reduce obstruction to traffic. The alternating flashing yellow lights you see when the bus is moving need to be turned on at least two hundred feet prior to the point where the bus is planning to stop.  This doesn’t mean you should quickly try to pass the bus when you see those come on.  Drivers should also begin to slow.  You have to remember kids also see those lights and sometimes run across the road to get to the bus.  So please be patient and know it won’t take long to get the kids on or off the bus.  When the yellow lights transition to the red lights is when the bus is stopped.  This means everyone must also stop. 

So here are the reasons a bus will activate its lights:  whenever the school bus is stopped to load or unload schoolchildren, stopped because it is behind another school bus that is loading or unloading kids, or is stopped because it has met a school bus traveling in a different direction that is unloading or loading kids.

Saguache School Bus

Saguache residents are asked to take extra care in the school bus loading and un-loading areas, especially as the new school construction AND the sewer projects continue in the area. Photo: Saguache Today.

A school bus driver carrying any schoolchild is also required before crossing any tracks of a railroad, to stop within fifty feet but not less than fifteen feet from the nearest rail and shall not proceed until the driver can do so safely.

So now, here’s the refresher on what to do when you come upon a school bus.  If you are a driver on the road and come upon a bus from either direction that has stopped and its lights are activated, you need to stop your vehicle at least twenty feet before reaching the school bus.  After the kids are off or on the bus, you are not allowed to proceed until the signal lights are no longer on. So make sure no one starts to go just because they think they don’t see any more kids.  You can only proceed driving again once the bus driver turns off the lights.

Now we answer the question on what to do on a divided road.  There aren’t too many of those in the rural areas, but here is what to do when you see one.  If the highway has separate roadways then you are not required to stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway. For the purposes of this section, “highway with separate roadways” means a highway that is divided into two or more roadways by a depressed, raised, or painted median or other intervening space serving as a clearly indicated dividing section or island.  I would like to add to watch for those kids running across roadways though.  Also if children are crossing the road at an intersection make sure you stop for them as required.

Another thing to know is the driver of a school bus not only can, but is required to call in any vehicles that disregard the activated red lights and passes the bus.  Law enforcement will then take the information the driver provides and visit the other driver and will often issue a mandatory summons into court.  The driver then gets to explain to the judge why he or she failed to stop for a bus loading or unloading kids.  So if you see a bus loading or unloading kids, it’s best to make sure you stop.

If you care to read up on the law, you can find it in the Colorado Revised Statutes under 42-4-1903 (1).

Follow-Up . . . . . 

patrol car (1)I’d like to mention one last thing this month.  It is the goal of these articles to keep people as informed and safe as possible when driving in Colorado.  With that being said, it was brought to the attention of the State Patrol that information in the article “Bicycles and Automobiles” was viewed as biased towards automobiles and did not encompass the law as it should have been stated.

I apologize if there was confusion on what I was trying to convey when it comes to automobile and bicycle laws.  I believe if I had gone into more detail into some of the information I was providing in the article, it would have been a little clearer. We here at the Colorado State Patrol are dedicated to putting out information as accurately as possible.

I hope you enjoy these articles and will continue to read them in the future.  We value everyone who uses the roadways and our goal is to keep everyone safe.  I will strive to provide you with sound advice and safety measures to help you stay safe on our roadways.

Thanks, As always, safe travels!

Saguache School Construction_October 2018_9

The new Mountain Valley School construction continues. Things are starting to look a lot different at the corner of 6th and Pitkin Avenue in Saguache Today.

Saguache News – September 24

Sharing the Road in Saguache Today

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Colorado is a bicycling state; so you either ride a bicycle or at least see bicycles often.  You’ll see the casual riders, weekend riders, bike to work riders, and there are also many weeklong and weekend biking tours throughout the state, such as Ride the Rockies, and Pedal the Plains. This means both bicycles and cars need to access the roadways at the same time and do it amicably.  This is accomplished by being courteous to others and following the law. 

When you’re out there driving, you need to be aware there are a multitude of things that you need to be watching for;  such as animals, pedestrians, bicycles, debris, broken down vehicles, and pot holes, just to name a few.  So let’s talk about bicycles this time.

As a Trooper, I’m often approached by both cyclists and drivers complaining about the other one.  Both believe they have the right of way, and they are both right to a point.  Each has the right of way at certain times.  Putting the law to the side for a moment though, just think about it this way; would you want someone doing that to you?  Follow that philosophy and you’re actions will almost always be right.

We have always had laws that govern cycling on the roadway, but recently we have also included laws for drivers when they are passing cyclists on the roadways.  Probably the most contentious interaction between cyclist and driver is when they are passing each other when going the same direction.  Colorado state law issues an order that cyclist are to ride as far right of the pavement as safely as possible.  This is their responsibility.  So if there is a shoulder, the rider is required to be on the shoulder and not in the lane of traffic.  Now cars have a part to play in this as well.  Drivers are responsible to give at least 3 feet between them and the biker when passing.

One problem I often see on a two way road is when a car comes upon a cyclist, they will give the required 3 feet distance, but then they will go into the oncoming lane of traffic causing the other driver to slow or swerve to miss having a crash.  Drivers are required to yield to both the other cars as well as the cyclist if they can’t pass the bike safely.  

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Know the rules. Know the law. Share the road.

Now if there isn’t a shoulder for the cyclist to ride on, the cyclist has the right to use the roadway.  Again they are required to be as far right as they can safely ride.  When they are in the lane of traffic though, they are also required to ride single file.  Cars are still required to give that 3 foot buffer when passing the bike.

When a cyclist comes to an intersection and is planning to continue going straight and there is a right turn lane involved it becomes a little more confusing for some.  It also becomes a little more dangerous for the cyclist.  In this situation the cyclist is allowed to go in between the lane going straight and the turn lane.  This will possible put the rider between cars.  They will also have to cross the turn lane at some point prior to the intersection to get into the lane going straight.  In this instance, the cyclist is the one who needs to yield to the cars, but a little courtesy from everyone involved will be helpful to make sure everyone is safe.

When it comes to a cyclist needing to make a left turn at an intersection, most cyclists I have observed will stay to the right side of the lane and make a sweeping turn.  Drivers need to be observant of the cyclist and try not to pass them when they are turning left with traffic.  This is when everyone needs to be cautious.

A new law that was signed by Governor Hickenlooper, is what’s called the “Idaho Stop” law.  It went into effect in August of this year, but each municipality has to opt in for it to be law in their area.  The law allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, and red lights as stop signs.  It’s a very controversial law and has many critics.  So, know the biking laws in the state.

As one last reminder here is a little known law to the bikers out there, cyclists are required by law to have at least one hand on the handle bars at all times.  This is a law that goes unheeded quite often.

I hope this helps everyone while traveling throughout Colorado with knowing how vehicles and bicycles can and need to get along with each other.

As always, safe travels!

Saguache News – June 9

Road Rage: What You Should Know

By Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol

This month’s topic is very important in my mind.  We are seeing an increase in road rage, not only in our state, but across the United States.  The reason road rage starts, varies from situation to situation, but it needs to be taken seriously, because it can be deadly in the end.trooper-gary-cutler-column

I want all of you to be careful when driving the roadways of Colorado.  It seems with the increase of traffic and the inevitable gridlock we have when traveling on weekends and holidays, tempers are rising quicker than ever.

Here’s a few tips to avoid getting caught up in a road rage incident with another driver.  The first is when driving on roads 65MPH or more, stay out of the furthest left lane.  It is state law, and when you have drivers that seem to be in a giant hurry, they won’t be right on your bumper.  By staying in the left lane it elevates the possibility of a crash and the chance the aggressive driver will get mad and try to do something dangerous.

If you have someone following too closely and they start to really try to crowd you, safely get out of that lane or to the shoulder of the roadway.  Let them pass, and then take your time getting back on the roadway.  If the other driver is intent on trying to get you to stop, call 911, or *CSP to get emergency help.  The dispatchers will let you know what you should do next.

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From semis to summer traffic, the roads in @Saguache Today are busy! Travel safe! Photo: Saguache Today

Never try to follow the other driver; this could provoke them to have a confrontation.  Always remember, the best course of action is to disengage as soon as safely possible. 

Be courteous to other drivers, and they should be courteous to you.  Use your blinker, let others in your lane, and be light with the horn.  Don’t let someone else’s anger on the roadway get you caught up in it. Get to where you are going safely.

Finally, give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going.  Plan that there will be a delay, so by leaving early, the pressure is off.  Colorado is beautiful in the summertime.  Slow down and enjoy it, and let’s see if we can get the rest to do the same.

As always, safe travels!

Saguache News – June 1

Semi-Truck Safety: Sharing The Road

When looking at driving safety in our state, it has to be looked at from every angle.  This month, I want to talk about driving on the road with semi-trucks.  A semi with a trailer is approximately 70’ on average.  Think of that as having a 6 story building going down the highway.  They are big, bulky, and slow to stop and take up a lot of room when changing direction.  Drivers making an error in judgement around semis or a semi driver making an error in judgement around cars can have serious to fatal consequences. 

All it takes is a little pre-planning on both the semi driver and the driver’s in other smaller vehicles to make sure a crash doesn’t happen.  By this I mean have a plan for the unexpected.  Don’t follow too closely, in case the other vehicle has to stop quickly and without notice.  Know the stopping distance of your vehicle at highway speeds.  For instance, a fully loaded semi-truck with a gross vehicle weight of up to 80,000 pounds, going just 55mph, has a stopping distance of 100 yards; that’s the length of a football field. 

Drivers in cars and trucks need to make sure to give semi’s plenty of space when merging in front of them or you may have it sitting on top of your car.  For the semi driver, make sure you are checking and continue to re-check your mirrors when making those lane changes.  Smaller cars and trucks can easily hide in those blind spots.

SanLuisValley_Open Road

Wide open spaces and places is what you can find in Saguache Today.

Just because you are big, doesn’t mean you don’t have to give the right of way to other vehicles.  Make sure your right of way is free of other traffic prior to merging or turning onto a roadway.  On the other side, please give semi’s a break when they are trying to merge or make turns.  It takes a lot of space to maneuver these rigs and to get one going can take some time.

In areas where there is heavy semi traffic, try to avoid the area if possible to reduce your chance of having a crash with one of them.  If you drive the semi, try to make sure you don’t get in a small convoy with other semis so you can give the smaller and often local traffic a break.

By being courteous to one another on the roadways, we can eliminate crashes that involve semi-trucks with other vehicles.  Try and put yourself in the other person’s vehicle and think about what they would like from you so they can get where they are going, just as they can try to help you get to your destination.

And lastly, in case anyone has forgotten the other big one, here is a reminder:  blinkers, blinkers, blinkers. 

Remember, these tips are good to pass along to the younger drivers in your life.  Please spread the word.

As always, safe travels!

Saguache News – February 5

Conceal, Carry Offered Locally in Saguache 

On Saturday, Feb 17, Kuma Tactical (KT) will be having a concealed carry weapons (CCW) class at the Saguache County Sheriff Department

ccw-classClass starts at 10 a.m. All classes are taught by current law enforcement and National Rifle Association instructors. Kuma Tactical will provide breakfast, the necessary paperwork and your training certificate that you need to apply for your CCW. All you have to do is show up!

KT’s Lead Instructor Saguache County Deputy Wayne Clark will also have range time that usually takes an hour in which you and Clark will go out and shoot. During this time some of the things reviewed include stance, proper way to hold your weapon, failure drills and other things to make you more effective.

The cost for the class is $100. As part of the class less than lethal options will be presented. KT offers a full line of self defense items (stun guns, batons, OC spray etc. ) along with many other survival items.

CO State Patrol Youth Academy

By Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol

This month I want to divert a bit from driving tips and discuss a topic very important to troopers.  The mission of a Colorado State Patrol Trooper is not just enforcing the laws on the state’s highways, and interstates.  We are also very involved in educating the public in various areas.

One way we do this is working with Colorado’s youth.  Once a year for one week in June, the Colorado State Patrol allows teens who are at least 16 years old from across the state a chance to see how state troopers are trained at our academy in Golden. 

The goal of the CSP Youth Academy is to assist in the development of future leaders for Colorado. It is a weeklong adventure for the 45 teens that are accepted.  Some of the academy requirements include that they must be a junior or senior for the fall of 2018, write an essay, have two letters of recommendation, and complete an interview with troopers.

While in the youth academy, teens will get to experience a long list of activities.  These include defensive driving on our state patrol track, firearms safety, self-defense tactics, traffic stops, building searches, team building, and ethics in law enforcement, just to name a few.  At the end of the week there is also a special field trip for the participants.  Past years have been visits to the Bronco’s football facilities, and Rockies games.

The academy is not just for teens interested in law enforcement.  The week long class will help them in their future endeavors.  It will also be an experience they will remember the rest of their lives.  If they want to continue with a career as a trooper, well, we won’t complain. 

The academy is free of charge.  It is paid for by private donors.  For more information contact Captain Lawrence Hilton at 303-273-1882, your local Colorado State Patrol Office, or visit our website: LINK.

This year’s youth academy is June 17-23.  Applications are due by March 7, 2018.

Next month we’re talking distracted driving. As always, safe travels!