DILLON, Colo. (CBS4) – As the first significant snowstorm of the year winds up to swing at the mountains, the topic of Colorado’s traction law is back. Passed in 2019, it has led to more requirements on passenger vehicles to supplement the state’s longstanding chain law for commercial vehicles.

“If you run into trouble they’re going to be right there,” said Dillon Towing operations manager Dan Kalland about how the Colorado State Patrol is writing tickets to people who end up stuck on Interstate 70.

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Kalland and his drivers have seen the results of overconfidence. It happens in different ways at times.

“The SUVs and stuff, they get out here, and they start going extremely fast. ‘Oh we’re fine. We’re 4 wheel drive. We’re SUV,’ and the next thing you know they get into an icy situation or some black ice and they’re going way too fast. That’s generally what will start the whole thing.”

The reality he notes is that all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicles with summer tires stop no sooner than any other vehicle.

Other problem vehicles he sees are rental cars, which often come with improper tires.

“We get a ton of those this time of year. You know people having crashes with rent a cars. Number one you’ve got a car you’re not familiar with at all.”

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In addition, many out-of-state drivers don’t know how to drive in snow. The Colorado State Patrol says it’s no excuse that the car does not belong to you.

That may be a popular belief about rental car capability, but the Colorado Department of Transportation looked at 500 cars parked at ski areas last winter season and found the most capable vehicles on average were rental cars.

The least capable, those with out of state plates.

In studying traffic in the traction law areas from October or 2020 to April of 2021, CDOT found there were 262 passenger crashes, not including spinouts and slide-offs during the 166 times the traction law was initiated over the time span. It resulted in 272 hours of partial and full lane closures.

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“Same tires last winter when I was driving back and forth,” said Jack Pattarina, who came to Colorado last November from New Jersey to work in the mountains. His Saab was reliable he believed, but has summer tires.

“I’ve got front wheel drive and regular tires pretty much, but I haven’t had any trouble with the law. I’m pretty much just back and forth through here,” he indicated between Keystone and Dillon. He admits he’s been on I-70.

“Oh if you end up stuck for sure yeah,” he said, agreeing to those who should get tickets, but he wasn’t worried about getting stuck. “Not really no.”

Alan Gionet