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Vail Daily column: Be safe around chain-up areas

Commercial vehicles operating on Interstate 70 between mile marker 133 in Dotsero and mile marker 259 in Morrison are required to carry chains between Sept. 1 and May 31. The Colorado Department of Transportation makes the determination on when to put the chain law into effect based on road and weather conditions. Failure to carry chains when operating a commercial motor vehicle is punishable by law and carries a fine of $69. If the driver of a commercial vehicle fails to chain up when required, it is a fine of $579 and if the subsequent unchained vehicle blocks the roadway, it is a $1,157 fine.

As a result of these circumstances, the chain-up area, located eastbound at mile marker 178 on I-70 through Vail, can be difficult to navigate in the winter. It is not only dangerous because of the road conditions, but also because of the large amount of traffic that can build up in the area. The same is true for the chain-down area located westbound at mile marker 179. In December 2009, a driver who was taking his chains off was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle. In 2011, two more people were struck by a passing vehicle as they chained up and one was sent to the hospital in serious condition. To help prevent another tragedy, the Vail Police Department would like to offer the following safety reminders for the winter season.

There are two common scenarios that cause accidents in the chain-up area. The first scenario is when the chain-up area is full of semi trucks and a car fails to move into the left lane as instructed by the illuminated signs at the beginning of the chain-up area. A semi truck, which has limited visibility and expects the slow lane to be moving slowly, enters traffic “cutting off” the car. The car then hits a semi truck or, worse yet, a person chaining up.

The second and most common scenario is as follows: A car traveling through the chain-up area hits a patch of ice while being driven faster than the 50 mph speed limit, and slides into a semi truck, another car, or one of the people chaining up on the interstate.

Here are a few reminders to get us all through the winter safely:

Always remember to move over to the fast lane. An officer is usually located at the beginning of the chain-up area, not only to inform truck drivers they are required to chain-up by law, but to move passenger cars over to the left lane. It can become very congested in the chain-up area and it's sometimes difficult for trucks to maneuver into an open spot to put on their chains. This can result in semi trucks moving slowly, or even stopping, in the area, causing congestion. In addition, the snow can cover the white fog line, making it difficult to tell the difference between the right lane and the shoulder. Often truck drivers put their chains on very close to the right lane boundary because of the number of trucks utilizing the area. This not only puts the driver in danger, but contributes to the congestion problem.

Remember to follow the illuminated speed limit signs. These signs are located near the chain-up area at eastbound mile marker 177 and the chain-down area at westbound mile marker 179. When the chain law is in effect, the speed limit is reduced to 50 mph. This speed limit slows down traffic during low visibility so truck drivers can safely merge into the left lane when they have finished placing chains on their trucks.

Failure to follow either of these reminders could result in a traffic ticket from an officer or, worse yet, a crash!

Slow down and maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front of you. Regardless of the speed limit, ensure you are able to maintain control of your vehicle at all times. Also keep in mind that during inclement weather the stopping distance of your vehicle increases greatly, so keep your distance from the vehicle in front of you.

Ensure your vehicle is in proper working condition and plan ahead. Besides making sure your vehicle is running properly, check that your tires are inflated properly and have enough tread. Ensure you have windshield washer fluid, preferably with de-icing solution added, to maintain good visibility. Keep your vehicle stocked with necessary equipment, such as flares, flashlight, traffic triangles, etc., should you be involved in an accident and need to exit your vehicle while on the roadway.

On behalf of the Vail Police Department, we offer these driving tips to help you navigate the snowy roads this winter.

Craig Westering is an officer with the Vail Police Department.


Truck Driving for Your Retirement

Truck Driving for Your Retirement

in Trucks

Truck driving is a career that a lot of people do not know a lot about. There are a lot of people that do not think much of the career because of the typical stereotypes.

Most people assume that the only people that are a part of truck driving are the uneducated or the lazy. Instead of actually learning about the career and the real pros and cons of the career, people will just look past truck driving.

There are a lot of educated people that choose to drive trucks after they retire. Couples will retire and drive trucks together.

Truck driving is not easy. Many of the companies have strict deadlines and specifications that can make driving a stressful event.

When truckers are making long trips they have to take the time to map out their route very specifically. There are a lot of routes that truckers cannot take.

For example, a lot of people do not even give a second glance to the underpasses that they drive through when they are driving on the freeway. When you are driving a very tall truck you have a whole different set of concerns than when you are driving a car.

You have to make sure that your truck will fit under all of the underpasses that you will pass through on your route. This takes some strategic planning and sometimes it takes a lot of time for people to plan their routes out.

The truckers also have to think about the weather. A lot of the time the truck driving companies will only pay the driver the full amount if they make it to the end of their route in a specified amount of time.

If a driver runs into bad weather this may seriously inhibit their ability to make it to their destination in the time that they have been allotted. Often times truck drivers will rush through the bad weather just to make it to their destination.

When a driver rushes through bad weather it puts the driver, any passenger and the cargo at risk. A driver is much better off avoiding the bad weather completely.

Some drivers feel that they can make it through bad weather and even though they are being cautious they get into an accident. The accidents that semi-trucks can get into are usually much more severe than regular cars.

These accidents are usually much more severe because they trucks are so big. The extra mass that the trucks carry makes the impact much stronger.

If you are looking into driving a truck there are a few personality traits you will want to make sure you possess or you can attain. These traits will make your life as a truck driver much easier.

First, you want to make sure that you are patient. When you are driving a truck you can only drive so fast.

You do not want to put yourself in the position of getting ticketed by the police. A lot of companies will have no problem letting you go if they feel that you are a risk to their company.

You do not want to get impatient with the speed that you have to drive. You also do not want to be impatient with the traffic that you are going to run into.

Some truck drivers choose to drive at night time so that they will not run into as much traffic, but there are situations when traffic is inevitable. There is nothing you can do about the traffic around you so you should not let it upset you.

If you are not patient your truck driving experiences will be very frustrating. The trips will become very stressful instead of relaxing.

There are also laws in place that require a truck driver to stop driving for a certain amount of hours every twenty four hours. Being patient enough to pull over and stop when you are tired is something that is very important.

If you continue to drive when you are drowsy you will put yourself and all of those people around you that are driving at the same time you are. Putting yourself and the other drivers around you is not fair.

Truck driving can be very relaxing. Many people choose to make some extra money by truck driving after they have retired.

If you are interested in truck driving you should attend a truck driving school. They will teach you the safest and most efficient way to drive your truck.

Jack R. Landry has been a truck driver for 19 years driving box trucks, dump trucks, and semi trucks. Before starting his career he graduated from a Utah truck driving school.

Contact Info:
Jack R. Landry

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