Clearing up confusion about Colorado’s traction laws

DENVER -- Like it or not, there already are icy roads in some parts of Colorado, and many drivers have misconceptions about the state's traction laws.

Many believe drivers don't need chains on their vehicles if they have snow tires or four-wheel drive. That's not necessarily true.

There are two main laws that apply to drivers in Colorado.

Traction laws often are in effect when there is winter weather. Under that law, no chains are needed if drivers have snow tires, four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive if there are 1/8 inch tread on tires.

However, none of that applies if Colorado's passenger vehicle chain law is in effect. Under that, all vehicles need chains.

"Traction law is usually when it starts to snow and there's some accumulation on the roadways," Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacia Sellers said.

"So this is where the road is completely horrible, if you want to think of it like that. We have our plows out there and they're having a difficult time keeping up."

In 2016, the passenger vehicle chain law was implemented only twice. It never took effect in 2017.

"It is pretty rare," said Sellers.

By comparison, the traction law was in effect about 140 times in 2016 and about 130 times in 2017.

However, many drivers don't know the differences between the laws, which is why CDOT is working to refine the language surrounding them.

"It is definitely confusing. We are fully aware of that," said Sellers.

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