Driving in Colorado snow: 9 things to know to stay safe


With a winter blast of snow arriving this week, national transportation organizations are reminding motorists to prepare for the first waves of winter weather. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following tips:

• Get your vehicle serviced before the snowy weather hits. Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and routine maintenance to ensure it’s at its optimal operating performance. 

12-plus inches of snow expected on Pikes Peak this week

• Check for recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Recalls Look-up Tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number to quickly learn if your vehicle has a critical safety issue that hasn’t been repaired. 

• Know your car. Before ice covers the roads, check that you understand how your vehicle handles. Practice on snow-covered side roads or unoccupied parking lots. Learn how to minimize the drain on the battery, and clean the vehicle of ice or dirt from the forward sensors, headlights and tail lights. 

• Stock your vehicle. Items such as a snow shovel, windshield scraper, jumper cables, flashlights, blankets, cell phone chargers and emergency food and water are recommended. Kitty litter or sand can also come in handy when a vehicle gets stuck in the snow. 

• Plan your travel route. Check weather, road conditions and traffic ahead of time. Don’t rush and allow ample time to get to your destination. Familiarize yourself with your GP system before getting on the road.

Forecast: Plunging temps, plus snow, expected in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Department of Transportation also recommends checking a vehicle’s tires before the cold weather sets in. Worn tires can’t grip the road well, and all-season tires don’t stop on snow and ice as safely as winter tires.

National insurance provider, AAA, recommends motorists ensure their tires are set to the pressures listed on the driver’s door or door frame.

“Tires begin to lose their resistance to wet and wintry conditions with as much as as 4/32″ of tread remaining,” according to AAA. “Any less than that and motorists are at a significant risk of losing traction.”

Winter-driving bill passes Colorado House, moves ahead to Polis

AAA offered the following tips for braking on ice:

• Minimize the need to brake on ice: If you’re approaching a stop sign, traffic light, or other area where ice often forms, brake early on clear pavement to reduce speed. Maintaining control of your vehicle is much more difficult when braking on ice-covered roadways.

• Control the skid: In the event of a skid, ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.

• If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS): Do not remove your foot from the brake during a skid. When you apply the brakes hard enough to make the wheels lock momentarily, you will typically feel the brake pedal vibrate and pulsate back against your foot. This is normal and the system is working as designed. Do not release pressure on the pedal or attempt to “pump” the brakes.

• If your car does not have an anti-lock braking system: Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to modulate the pressure applied to the brake pedal so the brakes are at the “threshold” of lockup but still rotating.

Drivers on Interstate 70 will have to comply with Colorado’s new traction laws, which state motorists must have either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow designation or a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle. Violators can face a Class B traffic infraction and a fine of $100 with a $32 surcharge.

Click here to see CDOT’s live road conditions map.

Click here for the National Weather Service’s forecast for Colorado Springs.