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Winter tire bill lacks bite

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Lawmakers in Colorado are considering tire legislation to improve traffic on Interstate 70 through the Rocky Mountains during the winter, but the proposed law wouldn’t require winter tires.

Proposed by Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush and Bob Rankin, the legislation is geared toward improving the traffic flow on a 126-mile stretch of I-70, which is the only route from Denver to many mountain communities. Heavy snow often reduces traffic to a single lane, and the road is frequently closed due to the number of vehicles not able to navigate the road in treacherous conditions.

As the bill states, “lane closures and complete road closure both pose significant public safety risks, cost the taxpayers and can result in significant economic losses for communities along Interstate 70 and for the entire state.

“Therefore another tool is needed to reduce travel times, road congestion and highway closures.”

Under this proposed law, from Nov. 1 to May 15, motorists traveling from Morrison to Dotsero would be required to:

1. Drive vehicles with tires imprinted with the manufacturer’s mountain-snowflake symbol and a tread depth of 4/32 of an inch; or

2. Have tires with the M+S or M/S symbol and a tread depth of at least 4/32 of an inch;

3. Operate a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle with tires that have a tread depth of at least 4/32; or

4. Carry tire chains or an equivalent traction device.

“According to the proposed bill, using winter tires will meet the bill’s requirements, but they are not required!” says Bob Ulrich, editor of Modern Tire Dealer. “There are too many either/or options in the legislation.

“The mud and snow designation indicates an all-season tire at best. And owners of vehicles with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive don’t even need to use all-season tires. The bill’s authors must think four- or all-wheel drive is enough to offset the lack of winter tires when driving through the Rocky Mountains, and it isn’t.

“In my opinion, if they want the bill to meet their goals, the legislators should stick with the first and last requirements and eliminate the middle two.”   

The bill passed an initial House committee and awaits consideration by the full Colorado House of Representatives. It’s considered a “pilot program traction law.” If it’s successful, such legislation could be expanded to cover other problematic highways in the state.

The proposed law doesn’t apply to commercial vehicles. Already the state requires commercial vehicles with four or more drive wheels to install tire chains on at least four of those drive wheel tires. Buses are required to operate with chains on at least two drive wheel tires.

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