What Do The Colorado Traction & Chain Laws Mean?
CDOT is looking to make the laws easier to understand.
I make several trips back to Missouri every year. The stretch between Junction and Denver is always an adventure. Add in some winter weather and the trip becomes much more challenging. Along the way, you see the "chain up" and "traction" signs. What do they really mean?
WIth a CDL in my wallet, and having spent hours behind the wheel of a big rig, I understand what's required if you're pulling a trailer through mountain passes. What about cars and trucks?
Colorado Department of Transportation says there are two main laws that Colorado drivers need to know. The Traction Law kicks in when winter weather hits. In that situation, no chains are required if drivers have snow tires, or are driving a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle with a minimum of 1/8 inch tread on the tires. "Traction law is usually when it starts to snow and there's some accumulation on the roadways," says CDOT spokeswoman Stacia Sellers said. The traction law went into effect about 140 times in 2016 and 130 in 2017.
The law is different during severe winter weather where chains are required. In a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law situation, ALL vehicles must "chain up." "...this is where the road is completely horrible, if you want to think of it like that. We have our plows out there and they're having a difficult time keeping up." If you make regular trips across the divide you'll want to have chains in the trunk, just in case.
Not following the laws comes with possible penalties...
- Motorists driving with inadequate equipment when a Passenger Vehicle Traction Law or Chain Law is in effect could be fined more than $130.
- If a motorist blocks the roadway because he/she has inadequate equipment when a Passenger Vehicle Traction Law or Chain Law is in effect, he/she could be fined more than $650
The chain law is rarely implemented. In 2016, the passenger vehicle chain law was in effect just two times. Last season during Colorado's unusually dry winter, the law was never implemented.
CDOT is working to refine the language in the laws to make them easier to understand. "It is definitely confusing. We are fully aware of that," said Sellers.