What would Colorado be without the Rocky Mountains? Kansas, maybe! Driving in either state can be challenging—the monotony of the Kansas flatlands and the dramatic climbs and descents in many parts of Colorado.
Driving in Colorado’s mountains is tricky, maybe even a bit nerve-wracking, but there’s no reason to avoid it (and lots of good reasons to enjoy it!). Just follow some basic tips.
- Don’t be distracted. The Colorado scenery is breathtaking but if you’re the driver, don’t let it cause you to drift out of your lane.
- Yield to the car going uphill. On secondary roads off the interstate, if you meet a car in an area that’s a tight squeeze for two, the car going up has the right of way. The downhill car should pull over to the side as far as safely possible or even back up if necessary. This is not a time to play “chicken.”
- Stay to the right. It’s the law throughout the state, but in no place is it more important than the mountains. Maintaining a constant speed is challenging, so be aware of your own speed and the traffic flow and move to the right when you’re not passing.
- Be aware of trucks. If you think it’s challenging to drive a car through the mountains, you can only imagine what it’s like in a tractor-trailer. Anticipate that you’ll come up on semis in the right lane very quickly as they slowly make their way up a mountain stretch. On the downhill side, trucks have a lot of momentum and for better or worse, they’d rather not slow down. So go ahead and let them by. You’ll pass them again on the next uphill!
- Stay cool (engine). On the way up, watch your temperature gauge and keep it in the safe zone. Turning off the air conditioning is a great way to reduce the load on your engine. If you’re driving an automatic and your engine is continually shifting into overdrive to maintain a certain speed, shift to a lower gear or ease off the accelerator and move over to the right—accept the fact that you’re not the fastest car on the road. The uphill won’t last forever!
- Stay cool (brakes). On the way down, don’t ride the brakes. Downshift to a lower gear and if you need to slow down even more, pump the brakes (apply firmly and then release). Braking causes friction and friction creates heat. Hot brakes become less and less effective and you could quickly find yourself in trouble if you don’t lay off them on the downhill.
- Watch out for wildlife. Animals on the side of the road are very unpredictable. A deer is just as likely to jump into traffic as it is to wander further off the roadside. As you come up on an animal, slow down and check for traffic around you in case you need to make a quick maneuver. Don’t blindly swerve—that could just make a bad situation worse.
- Take a break. If you find yourself tense and stressed, get off at the next exit so you can stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery…and everything the towns off the interstate have to offer.
- Anticipate sudden weather changes. A difference of 2,000 feet in altitude can introduce a completely different weather situation. Also, while it may be dry as you head into the Eisenhower Tunnel, don’t be surprised to find blowing snow when you come out the other end.
- Take care of your car. Make sure brake, transmission, and windshield washer fluids are all filled and fresh. Don’t head into the mountains in the winter with bad tires.
Bonus: Allow other cars to get by. If cars are bunching up behind you on a two-lane mountain road, there will undoubtedly be a safe place just ahead designed for cars to pull off to allow others to pass. Drive at your own speed and don’t let other drivers make you feel like you should go faster than you’re comfortable.
The Frickey Law Firm has been promoting safe driving and representing traffic accident victims in Colorado for more than 50 years. Contact our Our car accident lawyers at today for a free consultation.