How to Drive in Colorado’s Snow & Ice; A Refresher.

Dec 23, 2023, 5:29 PM | Updated: 5:45 pm

(Photo: Getty Images)...

(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

As our first snowstorm descends on the Front Range and northern and central mountains this weekend, motorists should be forewarned: Snow-covered and icy roads will present significant challenges . Have you forgotten what it’s like to drive in snow and ice? Are you new to Colorado and from a warm weather state? AAA Colorado offers the following advice. It’s a lot of information, but important to know of have a refresher.

Dead batteries and sliding and crashes resulting from treadless and under-inflated tires represented the majority of calls. To avoid losing control of their vehicle, motorists should ensure their tires are set to the pressures listed on the driver’s door or door frame. Tires begin to lose their resistance to hydroplaning with as much as as 4/32″ of tread remaining. Any less than that and motorists are at a significant risk of losing traction and a fine if tread enforcement is in effect.

Hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA urges drivers to slow down, be cautious, and prepare for worst-case conditions during their morning commutes. Before heading out, visit CoTrip.org for the latest road conditions and incident information, especially if you are driving over mountain passes.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive. Snow and ice pose significant risks to every single motorist,” said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. “Budget extra time, take it slow, and keep a vigilant eye on traffic conditions in front of you. You’re not invincible, and watch out for the driver who thinks that he or she is.”

AAA is encouraging drivers to be prepared and offers the below tips.

Car Preparation

  • Have your battery and electrical system tested. Most batteries have a life span of about three years and may not turn over in cold weather. AAA can check your battery before you hit the road. Schedule time for a AAA battery technician to come to your vehicle and test your battery, starter and alternator. We’ll even deliver a new battery, install it and take away your old one.
  • Check all fluid levels, including anti-freeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and engine oil.
  • Make sure all lights operate properly.
  • Inspect tires and brakes. Tires with less than 4/32″ of tread will have reduced traction in wet and snowy conditions. Put a quarter in the tread. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head, it’s time to start thinking about replacing the tire. In addition, make sure tires are properly inflated, and check for signs of uneven wear.
  • Check windshield wipers and washer fluid levels.
  • Try to keep the fuel tank at least half full at all times, in case you get stuck or encounter long traffic delays.


Winter Driving Kit

  • Keep an emergency kit in your car with tire chains, abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, small shovel, flashlight with extra batteries, ice scraper, rags or paper towels, flares or other warning devices, booster cables and a first aid kit.
  • Bring blankets, jackets, hats and gloves for you and your passengers
  • Pack water and snacks, such as energy bars, and bring pet food if you’re traveling with four-legged friends.
  • Charge your mobile phone before you hit the road.


AAA Tips for Slick or Icy Roadways

  • Slow down: Accelerate, turn, and brake gradually. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Don’t tailgate: Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to a minimum of eight to ten seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.
  • Watch the traffic ahead: Slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, fishtailing cars, sideways skids, or emergency flashers ahead.
  • Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes: This increases the chance of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause loss of vehicle control.
  • Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses: Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • Move over: Move over one lane for law enforcement and emergency roadside assistance personnel assisting motorists. It’s the law. If you can’t move over, slow down.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road.


AAA 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.


AAA Tips when Icing Conditions Affect Vehicles

  • Ice coated windshield/windows: NEVER pour hot water on windshield or windows. this can cause the glass to break. Use vehicle defrosters to melt ice for easier removal. Don’t use windshield wipers to remove ice – this will damage the blades.
  • Frozen windows: Do not continue to push the power window buttons if the window is frozen. It can damage the mechanics inside the door and can also cause the window to break.
  • Frozen locks: Never use water to thaw frozen locks. Instead use commercial deicing products or heat the key and lock with a hair dryer. A lighter can also be used to heat the key.
  • Frozen windshield wipers: If windshield wipers are frozen to the windshield, use the heater and defroster to melt the ice before turning the windshield wipers on. When you arrive at your destination, remember to pull the windshield wipers away from the windshield to prevent refreezing.

I’ve been a AAA member for 30 years and they haven’t paid me to say this, but I wouldn’t drive in Colorado anytime of year without some motorist assist protection. 


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