Law requiring snow tires in Colorado mountains takes step forward in legislature

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DENVER -- Colorado is one step closer to a law requiring snow tires or chains for all vehicles in the I-70 mountain corridor throughout the winter months.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, passed a voice vote in the House on Thursday. The vote came a day after multiple weather-related accidents closed down I-70 from C-470 to Idaho Springs.

Dennis Laughren lives on Lookout Mountain, but still couldn't completely avoid the mess on Wednesday evening.

“It took about 12 minutes to get to my class. It took about 50 minutes to get back,” Laughren said.

I-70 eastbound closed for more than six hours due to multiple crashes that stretched over 4 miles near Lookout. According to the Colorado State Patrol, there were at least 62 cars towed from the area.

"It’s a dangerous situation that we’re seeing and that’s what happened yesterday for a lot of the vehicles," said Sgt. Rob Madden. "They were not appropriately outfitted with the tires that were necessary.”

Representative Diane Mitsch Bush is trying to change that. She is sponsoring the bill that would require better tires or chains for passenger vehicles on I-70.

Colorado law already allows CDOT and CSP to require snow tires or chains for passenger vehicles, if road conditions are treacherous, but the proposed law would implement it throughout the winter months.

“What my bill does is create certainty and predictability for the motorists," Rep. Mitsch Bush said. "so that we, as the motorists, know what we need to have.”

The proposed law would require snow tires from November 1 through May 15. It would apply on a 130-mile stretch of interstate between Morrison and Dotsero.

The law would not create checkpoints or other areas to assess fines. Instead, as with the current law, it would be enforced if a driver was already cited for another violation or for causing an accident. It's a $132 fine for having improper tires and causing an accident, and a $656 fine for an accident that causes a lane closure.

The fines are not the biggest priority for those who support the bill. Consider the fact that there have been no citations handed out after the pileup that closed I-70 on Wednesday.

“The priority is not going to be on issuing the citations as much as clearing the road, getting people off the road safely,” Sgt. Madden said.

Instead, the hope is that a stronger law will help prevent some of the large crashes from starting.

“I think that’s the greatest value with the bill actually is the deterrent effect. Because now, if the bill passes, you can clearly educate and people just seeing, ‘Oh, I could get a fine,’” Rep. Mitsch Bush said.​

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