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How To Drive Safely Through Mountains in Colorado

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June 24, 2023 Car Accidents

Whether you’re an experienced driver in Colorado or driving through the mountains for the first time, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some mountain driving tips.

From planning your trip to last-minute travel safety tips, we have a full guide on how to drive safely through the mountains in Colorado.

Your safety on the road is our priority, and if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, our experienced Denver car accident lawyers are here to help.

Tips Before You Start Driving Through the Mountains

Checking Road Conditions and Construction Updates

Driving through the majestic mountains of Colorado can be a thrilling and scenic experience, but it’s crucial to prioritize safety along the way.

Before embarking on your mountain adventure, it’s important to stay informed about road conditions and any ongoing construction projects that might impact your journey.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) provides a valuable resource for real-time road condition information and construction updates.

By visiting their official website, you can access up-to-date details about closures, detours, and any potential hazards that might affect your route.

Checking this information before you hit the road allows you to plan your trip accordingly and make any necessary adjustments to ensure a smooth and safe drive.

In addition to monitoring road conditions, it’s also wise to plan your rest stops and explore points of interest along the way. Colorado boasts a plethora of scenic viewpoints, rest areas, and attractions nestled amidst its mountainous landscapes.

The Colorado Tourism Office website serves as an excellent reference for gathering information about these rest stops and points of interest.

Whether you’re in search of a picturesque spot to stretch your legs, capture breathtaking photographs, or simply soak in the natural beauty of the surroundings, the website offers a wealth of resources to guide you.

Take advantage of their recommendations and make the most of your mountain drive by incorporating these rest stops and points of interest into your itinerary.

Stay informed about road conditions and construction updates through the CDOT website. By utilizing the resources provided by the Colorado Tourism Office to plan your rest stops and explore points of interest, you can enhance the safety and enjoyment of your mountain driving experience in Colorado.

Buckle up, take in the breathtaking vistas, savor the adventure while prioritizing safety at every turn, and enjoy the drive.

What is One of the Greatest Dangers of Driving on Mountain Roads?

 Safe Driving Tips for Colorado Mountain RoadsOne of the greatest dangers of driving on mountain roads is not being prepared.

Unpredictable weather, steep grades, and winding curves can pose significant challenges for drivers who are not adequately equipped with knowledge of road conditions, appropriate vehicle maintenance, and essential safety precautions.

The following are some additional tips for driving in Colorado safely by preparing before you embark on your trip.

  • Check the condition of your car. Make sure your car is roadworthy. The brakes, engine, battery, fluid levels, windshield wipers, heater, antifreeze, and tire condition. It would also be smart to get an oil change, fill up your gas tank, and make sure you have a spare tire
  • Check the weather. Snowstorms and icy roads in the springtime are not uncommon in Colorado
  • Pack an emergency kit. Flashlights, extra headlamps, batteries, phone charger, first aid kit, water, ice scraper, blankets, sand, change of clothes, sunscreen, windshield washer fluid, etc. You can also find more suggestions for a creative emergency kit from Uncover Colorado
  • Bring a map. Phone service and cell phone reception on mountain roads can be unreliable. Visit for update-to-date highway cameras of major through roads, as well as closures and alerts. Know where gas stations and turnouts are located in case of an emergency

The Mountain Rules: I-70 Mountain Corridor Overview

Lastly, if you’re driving the I-70 mountain corridor between Morrison and Dotsero from September 1 to May 31, you’ll want to check the state’s Traction Law (Code 15). This states that you must have one of the following:

  • Snow tires
  • 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
  • Tires with an M+S (mud plus snow) designation
  • Tire chains
  • Traction devices like tire socks

If you get caught out there without one of the above traction options, you could be fined $130 or more. You would also be more likely to cause an accident.

Being prepared and informed is key to ensuring a smooth and stress-free journey through the magnificent Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Keep Right Except to Pass

Stay in the right lane unless you’re looking to pass another car. If there are three lanes, the far right lane is designated for semis and large trucks that have to go slow, the middle lane is for regular travel, and the left lane is specifically for passing.

In the same vein, if you see a car behind you approaching quickly, pull over to the right lane. Among many other reasons or circumstances, they may have lost their brakes, and it will take a while to slow down.

Save Your Brakes

Pay attention to downgrade traffic signs and shift to a lower gear to save your brakes from failing when going downhill. Instead of riding the brakes, change your gears into Low 2 or Low 1 on a very steep hill (both uphill and downhill) so the transmission will brake for you.

When you’re driving uphill, don’t turn your AC on, as it may cause your engine to overheat. Instead, roll down the windows and let some fresh air in.

If your car does overheat, here are some tips from Colorado Springs‘ government:

  • If your engine is hot, sometimes switching the car’s heater to the highest setting will help. Consult your driver’s manual for proper cooling procedures.
  • You may wish to run water on your radiator core to condense steam and reduce heat.
  • Do NOT remove the radiator cap until the engine is cool. Follow the manual procedures when adding water or other coolants.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Keeping your eyes on the road may sound obvious, but there are a lot of factors when it comes to driving in the mountains:

  • Sightseeing. Pull your car over to take in the views to avoid accidents around those tight turns.
  • Wildlife. We’re going through their terrain, so be careful to keep an eye out for mountain wildlife like elk or deer, especially around dawn and dusk.
  • Mountain Debris. There are usually signs around these areas, but also make sure to keep an eye out for debris falling from higher ground.
  • Driving at night. Driving in the many mountains of CO requires extra caution and attention, especially at night. The reduced visibility combined with the presence of nocturnal wildlife can increase the risk of accidents. 

Winter Driving Safety in the Colorado Mountains

Concerned about driving during the winter months? Good news – there are a few ways to avoid driving through the mountains in Colorado. For example, you can take the train if you’re going to Winter Park! Amtrak can take you from Denver to Winter Park Resort on the weekends.

You can find more information through their FAQs here. If you’re just looking to take in the views, there are many train routes and excursions you can check into. “TravelAwaits,” even has a list of 8 Beautiful Colorado Train Trips You Must Experience.

Your Safety Matters

Your safety matters to us! We’ve seen the pain caused by others’ negligence and want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. By understanding and remembering tips and advice on how to drive safely through the mountains, we can all make the roads a little safer.

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