Diane Mitsch Bush: Facts on the I-70 winter traction bill


HB1039, a bill to require adequate traction equipment for passenger vehicles on the mountain corridor of Interstate 70, is needed to protect public safety and promote economic competitiveness for our mountain communities and our state.

The bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support Feb. 2. It will be heard in Senate Transportation Committee March 24. Numerous organizations that support it are listed below.



State Representative Diane Mitsch Bush from Steamboat Springs won the Colorado Livestock Association Award.

This bipartisan bill seeks to prevent accidents and closures of I-70 by correcting a critical gap in current traction law pertaining to passenger vehicles. A 2009 bill filled the same gap for semi-trucks traveling the I-70 mountain corridor, resulting in a decline in accidents and closures caused by trucks. Colorado Department of Transportation data from 2010 to 2015 clearly show this dramatic improvement in safety. However, during the same period, the CDOT data show increases in accidents and closures caused by passenger vehicles with inadequate tires.

Under current law, CDOT cannot state "passenger vehicles must have adequate tires, chains, or alternate traction devices" until after a "Code 15" (passenger vehicle chain law) is officially invoked. This time gap when conditions have deteriorated, but the traction law is not yet in place, is precisely when passenger vehicles with bald tires cause accidents, delays for others who have adequate tires and closures of I-70.

Currently, drivers cannot be prepared for changing conditions if a Code 15 is called after they are underway.

Until that Code 15 is called, good tires or chains are not required by law. Cars with inadequate tires spin out, causing I-70 to be closed, sometimes for hours. Data from a study commissioned by the Denver Metro Chamber show statewide economic losses of at least $800,000 for each hour the mountain corridor is closed.

HB1039 requires adequate tires, chains or alternate traction devices on or in the vehicle from Oct. 1 to May 15 from Dotsero to Morrison for passenger vehicles. Colorado State Patrol Sergeant David Hall testified that under current law, "By the time CDOT can declare an emergency Code 15, it's too late to prevent anything. This bill allows law enforcement to be proactive. It takes the guessing out. "

HB1039 provides certainty for motorists who are currently unsure about what they need for safe travel. The tourism industry strongly supports this bill.

Businesses, governments, and law enforcement are on the record in support HB1039, including: CDOT; CSP; Club20; I-70 Coalition (52 business and government organizations on I-70 Mountain Corridor); Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association; Colorado Restaurant Association; Vail Resorts; Colorado Ski Country USA; Winter Park Resort; I-70 chambers of commerce; I-70 towns; Denver Metro Chamber; Colorado Competitive Council-C3; Colorado Motor Carriers; Colorado-Wyoming Petroleum Marketers; police chiefs; and Eagle County Paramedics/EMS, representing firefighters and ambulances.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger testified that without this bill, public safety risks multiply for other drivers, for law enforcement and ambulances. This endangers lives.  Eagle County Paramedic Director Chris Montera recounted an incident in which an ambulance was stuck behind spun out vehicles for six hours while in transit to a Front Range hospital.

In addition to the risk to public safety, the state suffers an estimated $800,000 economic loss for every hour that I-70 is closed, making Coloradans late for work, preventing goods from moving across the mountains and giving stuck-in-traffic visitors plenty of time to think about heading to some other state for their next ski vacation.

This bipartisan bill is needed to protect public safety and ensure economic competitiveness for our mountain counties and for our beautiful state.

State Representative Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs) represents Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado House of Representatives. She is vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee and co-prime House Sponsor of HB16-1039.


Eric Morris 1 year, 1 month ago

Famous last words of all our favorite tyrannical overlords: Bipartisan and business support. Code words for watch your wallets the cronies have all conspired. She should have mixed in a perfunctory: "It's for the children" and "improves national security" for the threepeat of wannabe tyrants.


John Kinkaid 1 year, 1 month ago

Current laws are sufficient. We don't need another law on the books.


Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

Seems to me that I70 does have an issue of drivers not being ready or able to comply with chain requirements when called by CSP. The law was fixed for commercial vehicles and now they are seeking to fix it for passenger vehicles. The current situation of unprepared drivers causing crashes wastes time of citizens and cost businesses money. It should not require a horrific mass fatality accident caused by an unprepared driver to correct the law.

I think it is a bit silly to say it is in effect regardless of the weather. I would tell CDOT to call Code 15Prepared which states that a Code 15 is possible in the next 6 or 12 hours and now all drivers on I70 must be prepared for a Code 15.


George Hresko 1 year, 1 month ago

I see no ready reference to best practices. What do the other mountain states--WY,, UT, MT, ID, WA, OR, as well as CA and NV do? We are not the only place with mountain passes, Interstate Highways and snow.

While there are no doubt exceptions, I suggest the majority of miscreants are likely not long-time CO residents! A law isn't going to deal effectively with folks who visit briefly, or perhaps seasonally. In the words of a T-shirt I saw recently "You can't fix stupid."


mark hartless 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes, but there's also the idea that individual states are to be "laboratories" and handle such things as they wish.

Problem is when one gets their laboratory contaminated, experiments give out false data...


Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago


The law would allow CSP to station officers along onramps when conditions are threatening and make sure vehicles getting onto the highway are prepared for worse conditions. So it won't "fix stupid", but it can keep stupid off of I70 in poor conditions.

And I70 is different than other mountain highways in terms of how much traffic uses it. Maybe I80 has similar traffic, but it is much lower and drops to below snow level. So while they often enough have traffic issues on Sunday afternoon, I am not sure to what extent that bad tires is their issue.


George Hresko 1 year, 1 month ago

Scott--Not to give you a hard time, but by far the most common refrain I ever heard in my career as the reason for each place doing its own thing was, 'but we are different'! The not amazing finding, when you put them together, was that they could learn from each other. I am not suggesting that CO should do it just like any other specific state, but rather look at what at others have tried. Again, I see no reference to the 'laboratories' Mark refers to.


Andy Sturgell 1 year, 1 month ago

What is the reasonable suspicion standard specifically that must be met for police to detain (stop) vehicles under this bill? It sounds like this is ripe for abuse by cops who want to force contact with particular vehicles but don't have a legal reason to do so...I would think police would merely need to indicate in any reports that the vehicle's tires appeared inadequate from a distance...so pretty much any vehicle becomes fair game to be forcefully pulled to the side of the road with this law used as cause, even if that's not truthfully the reason for the stop.

This is a bit of a concerning law in my opinion, as I'm not sure how it can be enforced except in cases of actual accidents or incidental to other types of traffic stops. If police start pulling cars over because the view from the side of the road indicates potential inadequate tires then we're going to have lots of problems with unconstitutional detentions and it'll be very hard to determine which are legit and which aren't.


Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 1 month ago

I think most LEOs would treat it as "excessive wheelspin" which is exactly what they already do under the auspices of "improper mountain/winter driving" and "defective vehicle" i.e. bald tires. This proposal would come down hard on the tourists, which is my reason it isn't the same as patching the law for trucks, as was already done.

My other reason, is vehicles have become so automated that even with the best of gear, some gaper will always be lulled into gaping beyond the laws of physics, as we see on the slopes every day. Even if they don't, rocks gonna slide.

We can add this up and say $800K/hr in lost business we must do something about. Or, in my mind, we can chalk that up as a cost of doing business in Colorado. Eventually, we'll just have robot cars and monorails, and laugh about having to remove quaint old "tire chain" laws from the books. Because if the main reason robot cars crash is they aren't being human enough, doesn't it make sense to just outlaw human drivers?

I think this will take a Constitutional Amendment, so I can stand on my rights when I say you'll only get my keys when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands. It's a slippery slope, and it starts with punitive fines when gapers and yaks cost us money for their gaping and yakking about on I-70. Next stop is mandatory robot-cars for rental fleets and then we're all doomed.

Now, don't go calling this crazy like some of y'all did back in January when I was on about the gummint's war on encryption. It isn't about what it's about -- clone the iPhone in question onto 1,000 other iPhones, assign 100 techs to it, each with 1% of the 10,000 possible numbers... wait, what? Yeah, I'm sayin' if'n the fibbies honestly thought there was anything relevant on that phone, it woulda taken them all of a day, with no need to farm it out to NSA and their supercomputers -- a 4-digit code is trivial, and all the crap FBI wants Apple to bypass is just security theater.

Curiously, neither side seems willing to admit the obvious -- any script kiddie with the resources could crack that phone for the FBI. Of course, by resources these days, I mean social-media contacts. If I were the social media type, I'd have already done the experiment several times, to see just how long it takes to group-guess any given 4-digit code.

Oh, dear! I guessed wrong ten times and the iPhone erased itself! Gone forever! Well, unless you flash it back to where it was, then the iPhone has no clue you just failed ten login attempts, move on to your next ten numbers. The only way it drags out all day, is if by chance the code is amongst the last guessed, when the retry delay comes into effect.


Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 1 month ago

But, in a ticking-bomb scenario, you give 10,000 iPhones to 1,000 techs and give them each two sets of ten (randomized) numbers, and someone's going to hit the jackpot within a few hours. This is not rocket science (aka cryptography), it's decimal integer math.

So the FBI's full of crap on this one, which doesn't put me in the mood for passing punitive legislation that'll be about as popular and useful as red-light cams, pissing off the tourists and de-legitimizing gummint even more, like we need that. It's time for this one to die, like hopefully the FBI's case against Apple will die.


Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 1 month ago

Seriously, this sort of absurd device security is why I've never considered getting a smartphone. Good on Apple for catching up to where they shoulda been a decade ago if they'd cared pre-Snowden, they're still the Evil Empire and no hero in this case, either. Fugly times we live in, where decimal integer math gets overruled by the emotions of the mob, many of whom bizarrely support the guy openly running for Fuhrer. Who, not surprisingly, is all for mandated encryption backdoors which would only put Americans in more danger from terrorists, in exchange for our ultimate capitulation to the surveillance state Trump will first use against, apparently, Megyn Kelly.


Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 1 month ago

If the FBI wins this one and we have robot rental cars, then a tourist flies to Colorado, rents a robot-car from Advantage, which he proceeds to unlock using his fingerprint. Advantage, compelled by FBI v Apple, checks his fingerprint against a federal database and determines a parole violation. Robot car locks perp in, delivers to nearest precinct.

If it protects us from economic loss due to gapers gonna gape on vaca and keeps scumbags off the slopes before anyone else gets thrown off a chairlift, then I guess what am I whining about.

I'm sure mandatory-robot rental cars (equipped with the appropriate snow tires in winter) will pass with full bipartisan support. ;-)


Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

I am also troubled that the law gives enormous discretion to CSP on how they chose to enforce it.

Primary enforcement could be on highway onramps during poor weather that is likely to become chain law enforcement requiring drivers to install chains or have 4wd with snow tires. In that case then added safety on I70 would be a direct result of enforcement. And vehicles would not be randomly pulled over but see it more like a checkpoint they can avoid if they have poor tires.

But since proposed law doesn't say anything about Code 15 chain law being expected to be imposed then it could be enforced on a day like today which would be police harassment.

That is much less of a concern for commercial vehicles because police don't profile commercial commercial vehicles looking for a reason to pull over a suspected drug dealer as they do for passenger vehicles.

Government should not be given the benefit of the doubt and expected to get it right when they are also being given the legal authority to get it deeply wrong.


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