As seasons change, the importance of winter driving preparedness cannot be overstated. Recently, DriveSafe had the opportunity to discuss this crucial topic in an interview with FOX31. Samantha Spitz, with FOX31 showcases how our Defensive Driving Skills course plays a vital role in imparting life-saving skills, which are essential for navigating winter road conditions.
During the interview, DriveSafe Instructor Jake Dinwiddie emphasized how learning defensive driving skills such as skid control, hazard avoidance, and precision maneuvers help drivers handle unexpected road emergencies that are more common in the wintertime. The course gives students the ability to practice these scenarios in real-time, so that if an actual emergency arises, more drivers are able to confidently manage these threats.
Watch the interview below or read the full interview here
In addition to offering Defensive Skills Day, DriveSafe is actively collaborating with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) on their “Winter Wise” series, aimed at educating the public on winter vehicle and road readiness, seasonal driving laws, and essential skills for a secure season of travel. Keep reading below for the full breakdown on how to navigate the roads safely and confidently this winter.
Tips for a Safe Winter Driving Season
Before You Drive:
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for winter driving is to make sure your tires are in good condition. Certain tires are safer for winter driving because they provide better traction. Winter tires, all-weather tires, and mud and snow tires are all safe options for driving in winter weather. Just make sure that your tires have a minimum of 3/16” tread depth. Use this handy tread-depth measurement card to check your own tires, or take them to any tire shop to have your tread checked for free.
Understand the Traction Law
During winter weather conditions, CDOT may implement a Traction Law. The Traction Law requires all vehicles to have either four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with winter tires with 3/16″ tread depth, all-weather tires with 3/16″ tread depth, mud and snow tires with 3/16″ tread depth, or chains or an alternative traction device.
The Traction Law applies statewide on all state highways when it is activated by CDOT. The public will be notified by electronic signs when a Traction Law is in effect. You can also check the CDOT website or app to see if the Traction Law is active. If you’re traveling on I-70 between Dotsero and Morrison between Sept. 1 and May 31, know that the Traction Law is always in effect in that area.
Before you depart, check your car’s oil, coolant, and fuel levels. Make sure your tire pressure and tread depth are sufficient, and confirm headlights, turn signals, brakes, and parking lights are all working properly. Staying on top of these essential components for optimal vehicle operation will reduce the chances of mechanical failures.
Stay Alert and Informed
Make a plan ahead of your trip. Visit COtrip.org or download the COtrip Planner on any Apple or Android device, for real-time road conditions, and sign up for travel alerts to be notified of any changes to your route. You can also visit CDOT’s Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest updates on travel impacts and closures.
On the Road:
Stay Apprised of Challenging Routes
The I-70 mountain corridor is one of the most heavily traveled corridors in Colorado, and it can be especially dangerous during winter weather conditions. CDOT recommends avoiding travel on I-70 during peak times, which are typically Friday afternoons between 2-7 p.m. (westbound) and Sunday evenings between 3-6 p.m. (eastbound).
If you must travel on I-70 during winter weather conditions, be sure to slow down and leave extra space between you and the car in front of you. It’s also important to be aware of the road conditions and to adjust your driving accordingly.
Snowplows play a vital role in keeping Colorado roads safe during the winter months. It’s important to be aware of snowplows and to give them plenty of space. Never pass snow plows that are operating in tandem formation (multiple snowplows staggered across lanes). Not only is it dangerous – it’s illegal.
Roadside Safety or Emergency Preparation
In the event of a mechanical failure, if possible, safely pull off the road onto a shoulder. Always have an emergency kit equipped with: a sturdy scraper or snow brush, flashlight, jumper cables, reflectors to signal for help, blanket or sleeping bag, first aid kit and essential medications, tire chains or tow strap, battery radio, shovel, water, and non-perishable snacks. Always make sure you have tire changing materials; spare tire, car jack, and lug wrench.
If you’re not a AAA Colorado member, consider signing up for an Emergency Roadside Assistance membership, where they can assist you anytime, anywhere.
If you’re involved in a collision – get yourself to safety, and call 911. Click here for steps to follow if you’ve been in a collision.
Brush Up on Winter Defensive Driving Skills:
Now that we’ve covered vehicle readiness and seasonal laws, it’s time to sharpen driving skills that are key to managing various threats that can more easily arise in winter driving conditions.
1. Skid Control:
Skid control is not just about regaining control on slippery roads; it’s a life-saving skill. Learning techniques to manage skids caused by adverse weather conditions is crucial for overall safety and reducing the risk of collisions.
2. Precision Driving:
Mastering vehicle control, steering, and maneuvering with accuracy and finesse are the core of precision driving skills. These skills are essential for navigating tight spaces, executing precise movements, and responding effectively to dynamic traffic situations.
3. Hazard Avoidance:
Recognizing and responding to unexpected or sudden obstacles on the road is the focus of hazard avoidance. Learning these techniques helps drivers anticipate and react to potential threats promptly.
4. Distracted Driving Prevention:
Not only are winter conditions already challenging to drive in, but it requires acute awareness and undivided attention. Put your phone notifications on silent, configure your GPS, and arrange belongings, like water or sunglasses that you may need access to, all before you start your journey.
As winter settles in, let’s prioritize safety on the roads by arming ourselves with knowledge and honing essential driving skills. DriveSafe and CDOT are committed to empowering drivers with the tools they need to navigate winter roads safely and confidently. Stay informed, stay prepared, and let’s make this winter season a secure one for all!