Interstate 70 heading to the mountains of Colorado. Photo Credit: Michael Ryno (iStock).

Heads up! Your car may need some new tires to legally travel around Colorado.

1. Traction law status can vary from road to road

It's important to be aware of where traction laws are active as you're traveling, as this can vary from road to road.

Each year the state's traction law goes into effect on a 126-mile stretch of I-70 from September 1 to May 31st. The nine-month mandatory traction law extends from Dotsero to Morrison, requiring all vehicles to carry proper winter traction throughout the season, regardless of weather. All other roads and highways are subject to traction laws during severe wintry weather.

2. There are various means of compliance

Per the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), an active traction law requires all motorists to have one of the following:

  • 4WD or AWD vehicle and 3/16” tread depth
  • Tires with a mud and snow designation (M+S icon) and 3/16” tread depth
  • Winter tires (mountain-snowflake icon) and 3/16” tread depth
  • Tires with an all-weather rating by the manufacturer and 3/16” tread depth
  • Chains or an AutoSock®

3. Breaking the traction law can mean a big fine

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) is doing their part to keep mountain travelers safe, cracking down down on those who refuse to follow traction laws. Breaking the law can result in a hefty fine.

Violators will face fines ranging anywhere from $130 to $650. If a vehicle blocks the road due to inadequate traction, the motorist could face a fine of more than $650. Drivers will be allowed to operate with standard tires as long as they carry tractions chains or an alternative traction device like the AutoSock.

4. There are various ways to stay informed

Passenger vehicle traction and chain laws are often implemented when roads or mountain passes become snowy and dangerous. According to officials, this is the final safety measure before a road or pass is closed. Motorists can be alerted by roadside signage, COtrip.org, and condition alerts.

5. Use the "quarter test" to check your tires

To test the tread on your tires, CDOT recommends the “quarter test.” Insert a quarter upside down into your tire tread, with Washington’s head going in first. If the top of the head is covered by tread, you’ve passed the test. If the top of his head is visible at any point around the tire (test multiple points), you’ve failed.

Editor's Note: Mountain-bound? Check CDOT’s Facebook, Twitter (@coloradodot) or cotrip.org for closures and delays on highways and roads across Colorado.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.


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