Snow and Driving tips for Newcomers to Colorado

During the last storm I posted a rant on Facebook about my #1 winter pet peeve – people who don’t clear snow off their windows. What surprised me is that it turns out not everyone knows why it’s a bad idea to not clean off your windows. Here are a few facts about windows and snowsnow:

  1. It’s a potential ticket to NOT clear snow off the top of your car and off the hood. Why you may ask? (not like the idiot in the photo who didn’t clean off his windows)  It’s because on a highway or at any higher speed (think 30-40 mph) it’s likely to blow off onto the windshield of the car behind you. OR as in a story a friend of mine tells, fall down onto your windshield when you hit the breaks at a stop sign or light. It’s dangerous. It takes two minutes to run your brush over the top of your car and the hood – please do it!

Since it turns out that some of you might not know why we native Colorado folk give you dirty looks,  I looked up a few more hints on driving in Colorado.

I’ve based this on a separate and unrelated rant here, with some of my own comments inserted. A lot of these refer to mountain, not city driving, but it’s a fact that Colorado has a LOT of mountain drivers (and I bet more than a few of you ski on the weekends!)

  1. On a steep grade going downhill (like one of our Mountain passes) switch to Overdrive or downshift rather than “riding” your brakes. Have you seen those scary sand filled runaway truck ramps? Those are for people who burn out your brakes by putting your foot on them the entire way down a mountain pass. Also don’t brake every 5 seconds, that is the quickest way to burn out your brakes. Plus, the cars behind you have to respond and they will burn theirs out.
  2. Please use the “slow vehicle pullout/turn out”! This is actually a law in Colorado on two lane highways to use these signed areas if you have people backed up behind you, EVEN if you are going the speed limit or faster! All that’s required for you to get a ticket is to go slower “than the normal flow of traffic”.
  3. 4 Wheeling in this state is not like other states. It isn’t mud bogging. It is driving on a road that hasn’t been graded, there are no guard rails, and frequently on “Shelf Roads” which means a small road with a sharp drop off to a 2000 foot cliff.  “A Honda Civic is not an off-road vehicle…. ever. Most Subaru’s aren’t (4WD doesn’t mean much when you have low clearance).” (taken straight from this online rant – it’s a great way to put it!) , another hint from the same article “If you’re going to go off-roading, keep 2 coats in the cab, along with a bottle of water, some granola bars, and a strong rope to tow you out of a ditch, 50-100ft long. One of those coats is for you, the other is to put on the rope when you’re being towed. If the rope breaks, it can “snap back” and do severe vehicle or personal damage.Oh… and your car can’t jump anything. So if you see a washed out area and floor it, be ready for front-end damage and a long walk home.” All very good tips, please read this before going off-road!
  4. If you see wildlife or a pretty scene, please pull completely off the road before stopping to take a picture. I’m sure many of you have witnessed this behavior in Rocky Mountain National Park, but few realize how dangerous this can be on a winding road. Estes Park has a very good hospital, I hope you don’t find that out firsthand.
  5. No matter how large your vehicle is, you are not going to win a death match with a 2000 pound elk, and god forbid you hit a moose – swerve, brake, whatever you have to do and keep an eye out, they can jump out when you lease expect them.
  6. Keep right except to pass. Seriously. Most of us will immediately check your license plate to see if you’re from Texas if you’re blocking up the left lane doing 30. If you are on a 3 lane grade, like the passes on I-70 into the mountains, then the far right lane is for big trucks, the middle lane is for normal travel, with the left for passing.
  7. ) It can snow at any time – especially the farther you get into the mountains. Any month, any time. Spring snows are some of the most hazardous because they mix moisture (read ice) with snow that masks the ice.

In conclusion, if you’re getting a lot of dirty looks from us on the road, we really don’t want you to go home, we just immediately distrust your driving skills. Especially if your license plate says  Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, or Kansas and we suspect you’re used to warm weather and flat plains.

Please drive safe and don’t take our glares personally! 🙂