Laws about alternate routes during the detour
August 12, 2017
The Grand Avenue bridge closure that's been looming all summer has finally arrived.
During the first few weeks of the closure, many motorists and daily commuters will adjust their routine.
I suspect there will be an increase in traffic on many of the secondary mountain passes, county roads, and residential side streets.
Several local residents and fellow law enforcement have expressed their concern over a potential increase in traffic on roads not designed for heavy traffic flow or larger commercial vehicles.
Colorado has a few specific traffic laws to keep in mind when traveling on mountain roads and passes.
Did you know it is a traffic violation to allow your vehicle to coast on a downgrade? Colorado Revised Statutes state the following:
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• C.R.S. 42-4-1009 (1): The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a downgrade shall not coast with the gears or transmission of such vehicle in neutral.
• C.R.S. 42-4-1009 (2): The driver of a truck or bus when traveling upon a downgrade shall not coast with the clutch disengaged. If your transmission is disengaged while descending a mountain pass, you are relying strictly on your braking ability to reduce speed or come to complete stop in an emergency.
It doesn't take long for excessive heat and friction to build in a vehicle's brake assembly.
You might find yourself with reduced stopping ability and loss of control on narrow mountain roads.
Coasting during adverse weather such as monsoon rains or sudden snowfall can also be extremely hazardous. Whether your drive a manual or automatic transmission-equipped vehicle, use your gear ratio to help safely reduce your speed on a descent.
You'll arrive safely at your destination, and extend the life of your brakes.
Plus, it's the law.
Another statute is specific to mountain highways and addresses right-of-way.
Colorado Revised Statutes address narrow mountain roadways with the following laws:
• C.R.S. 42-4-711 (1): The driver of a motor vehicle traveling through defiles (narrow passes or gorges) or canyons or mountain highways shall hold such motor vehicle under control and as near to the right-hand edge of the highway as reasonably possible, and shall give audible warning with the horn of such motor vehicle upon approaching any curve where the view is obstructed within a distance of 200 feet along the highway.
• C.R.S. 42-4-711 (2): On narrow mountain highways with turnouts having a grade of 6 percent or more, ascending vehicles shall have the right-of-way over descending vehicles, except where it is more practicable for the ascending vehicle to return to a turnout.
Yes, you read this correctly. The vehicle traveling uphill has the right-of-way, and you should use your horn on a blind curve.
A great example of a mountain highway where this statute is applicable is Colorado 82 on Independence Pass.
Stay alert and drive defensively on these more difficult roads. Late summer and early fall are popular times for bicyclists and motorcyclists traveling on mountain passes.
Watch for wildlife. As the evenings and mornings start to cool down, deer and elk herds will become more active and start to migrate.
Watch for advisory traffic signs indicating winding curves, steep grades and falling rock. These signs are there for a reason.
If driving on dirt or gravel roads, exercise caution as you navigate curves. Your vehicle's tires, steering and braking system will respond differently on this type of roadway surface. It is easy to exceed your vehicle's ability to navigate a curve.
Finally, never operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ask yourself: "Is it worth the loss of a life?"
Trooper Kefren Tester is a seven-year veteran assigned to the Colorado State Patrol's Vehicular Crimes Unit in Glenwood Springs. The Vehicular Crimes Unit is responsible for investigating fatal and felony crashes throughout the state.
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