Semi crash closes Rabbit Ears

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— A 68-year-old Texas trucker was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center in stable condition and cited for careless driving after an accident Thursday evening on the western side of Rabbit Ears Pass on U.S. Highway 40.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Brett Hilling said Gus M. Schwander, of Venus, Texas, apparently lost control of the truck he was driving at about 8:25 p.m. near The Timbers development as he descended Rabbit Ears Pass. Hilling said speed was a factor in the crash.

Schwander's truck was full of sand at the time of the crash and tipped onto its right side. A small amount of the sand was spilled onto the highway, Hilling said, and cleanup efforts continued at 11:45 p.m. Thursday.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue emergency responders, Steamboat Springs Police Department officers and Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies responded. U.S. 40 was closed for about an hour as Schwander was extricated and taken to the hospital, Hilling said. Westbound traffic was backed up during that time because there was no way to divert it, and eastbound traffic was directed down Colorado Highway 131.

There were no passengers in the truck, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Comments

Fred Duckels 4 years, 7 months ago

Trucks from the flatlands often do not have engine brakes, which are definitely safer. Flatland drivers are out of their element on a grade like this. The tendency is to gear down and use brakes to assist, when the brakes get hot they no longer hold, and it is off to the races. One with limited experience is better off gearing down so brakes are not necessary. Once brakes are hot about the only option is to find a place to roll it, or call in IOU's from the lord.

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nxoby36 4 years, 7 months ago

Why isn't there a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less for loaded trucks driving west bound down Rabbit Ears Pass ? There are to many wrecks on this section of highway , most due to flat land or rookie drivers driving 50-55 mph and then turning his brakes to glass when attempting to slow down for a 45 mph curve .

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oldlocal 4 years, 7 months ago

4 1/2 years ago I totaled my suv on Rabbit Ears near Muddy Pass. It was very traumatic. The vehicle rolled completely over and slid about 30 meters on the snow out into the field. I was cited with a Reckless Mountain Driving ticket and was accused of speeding. I have just lost my car and almost my life and now I'm being accused of speeding. Let me tell you- I am a slow driver all the time and I was not speeding when this accident occured. I did slam on my brakes when I hit the black ice which I've now learned from experience is the worst thing you can possibly do but I was not speeding to cause the accident. I guarantee this guy wasn't either and I am sick of people being cited for speed and careless driving when in reality the problem is yes, the speed limits need to be reduced-to a point that prevent all accidents and death. That is a dangerous pass and I always embark on it with safety in the back of my mind. Thank God Mr. Schwander is okay. We should be celebrating that this guy survived such a scary accident, especially going downhill, geez!

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nxoby36 4 years, 7 months ago

10 4 Fred , years ago when I was first learning to drive truck I was taught to go down Rabbit Ears west side in a gear low enough that I had to give it fuel to make it move ( we had no engine brakes and I still don't trust them ) many is the time I drove no faster that 7 MPH down that 7 miles of road , so it took me an hour or more to get down thats OK 35 years later I'm still here and have never had a problem on any pass . We need a maximum speed limit of 35 MPH on that section of Pass to slow down the 85,000 pound trucks heck anything over 30,000 and that includes a lot of your RVs folks.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 7 months ago

nx, I never depended on my brakes on this hill, they were for an emergency. I think that anyone with a math background would come to this conclusion.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 7 months ago

The tricky part of Rabbit Ears west side is that it is steepest with sharpest curves at the lower part while almost every other pass is steepest with sharpest curves at the top.

So so heavy load drivers that use the top section to set their speed can end up too fast for the lower sections.

CDOT should put a sign saying "steep grade and sharp corners ahead" about half a mile before the Timbers.

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seeuski 4 years, 7 months ago

oldlocal, It is not that you were speeding, it is that you were driving too fast for conditions. It is common practice for the driver who causes an accident, whether it involves other vehicles or not, to be cited accordingly. If motorists are not aware of the road surface and just use the posted best condition speed limit as their guide on high mountain roads they are taking their lives and the lives of others in their hands. Last Winter I was headed to Kremmling and after having made it safely past Rabbit Ears pass I was driving safely under the posted limit and without knowing it I entered a black ice section of road. I became acutely aware as I rounded a curve and felt my tires lose grip. I kept my foot off the brake and downshifted using the transmission to regain control along with the fact I was in 4wd. My speed became 35 in a 65. The speed limit signs can't become 35 from 65 because sometimes we have black ice. Driver awareness and skill are needed. As far as trucks on the west side descending I think they are warned pretty well with the runaway truck ramp signs along with other signs.

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localboy17 4 years, 7 months ago

I would completely agree with seeuski. Speeding or not you were speeding for the conditions you were driving in, and inexperience led to you believe you could go just under the posted limit, not to mention told you to hit your brakes. People need to understand that posted speed limits are posted that speed for dry summertime driving and conditions (especially on Rabbit Ears) are very marginal at best for the entire duration of the winter. Granted we are all happy this man is okay after the crash, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't get a slap on the wrist for his driving regardless of where he is from.

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nxoby36 4 years, 7 months ago

there are very few ways a truck can tip over on a curve and going to fast is the primary cause , next would be the driver drops a wheel off the pavement and jerks the steering wheel while at speed to get back on the road third would be the weight shifted in the trailer . a posted speed limit of 30 mph for loaded trucks and vehicles over 30,000 pounds would stop 90% of the truck accidents on that pass

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nxoby36 4 years, 7 months ago

I never depend on them either Fred , I try and save the brakes for when some idiot in a car tries to use my truck to commit suicide

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oldlocal 4 years, 7 months ago

localboy17 and seeuski, the accident happened at 8:16 pm on March 16th. The road was dry the entire way up from Denver. There was no warning that black ice was abound. Unless you were on the pass earlier that day, you would not have known it had sprinkled snow. I had been driving that pass for 6 years prior to this accident. I assure you, given the lack of any conditions, I was driving appropriately. I believe the speed limit signs can become 35 or 30 for that matter. The road is dangerous and if slowing down adds another 20 or 30 minutes to your journey, so be it. I would prefer that everyone arrive alive.

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Amy Harris 4 years, 6 months ago

That's the nature of black ice: it's suddenly just there and you always have to be prepared for it when you are driving on a mountain pass in the fall, winter or spring. You were simply going too fast for the conditions.

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localboy17 4 years, 6 months ago

I would have to take Amy's side on this as well. Especially for Colorado and more especially for Steamboat, March is no time to count on the roads being dry. And although I'm sure you are a good driver, you were not driving appropriately if you counted out the worst of conditions. I would also agree with you "oldlocal" that it would be a much better situation if everyone were alive. But the speed limit does not need to be reduced. Simply drive according to the old rule that it can snow in July in Steamboat and drive with that in the back of your mind.

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