7 Safety Tips for Driving in the Rocky Mountains
Whether you are a local skier or trail runner or a visitor from out of state, driving through the Front Range and deep into the Rocky Mountains provides endless opportunities for recreation and sightseeing. Your experience will vary greatly depending on the time of year you go, both in terms of the vistas and the conditions on the ground.
But, whether you take Interstate 70 out of Denver or one of the roads less traveled, when heading into the mountains, it is important to go prepared. Here are seven safety tips for driving in the Rocky Mountains:
1. Check the Weather
Check the weather for both legs of your drive. While it may be sunny and dry when you leave Denver, it could be an entirely different story on your way home.
2. Prepare Your Vehicle
Are your tires in good condition? What about your brakes? Are your headlights and windshield wipers functioning properly? Do you have a roadside safety kit and extra supplies just in case? You should be able to answer, “Yes,” to each of these questions any time you will be driving with potential for bad weather.
3. Stay Within Your Limits
If you are not comfortable driving in icy or snowy conditions, your plans are not worth risking your personal safety, whatever they may be. Always drive within your limits; and, if necessary, reschedule to a weekend with less-hazardous weather.
4. Brake and Accelerate Smoothly in Wintery Conditions
On slippery roads, sudden braking and acceleration can cause a vehicle to go out of control. Use extra caution while driving in wintery conditions, and be prepared for your journey to take longer than normal.
5. Use Proper Downhill Braking Techniques
If you ride your brakes coming down out of the mountains, the excess heat generated by constant braking can lead to brake failure. Use your engine to maintain a consistent speed; and, if it seems that your brakes may be beginning to fail, pull over at the first safe opportunity.
6. Leave Additional Buffer
The three-second rule for safe driving applies in good weather conditions on level ground. In the mountains, and especially in bad weather, it is important to leave an additional buffer both on your way up and on your way down. AAA recommends a buffer of eight to ten seconds.
7. Watch Out for Dangerous and Reckless Drivers
Finally, watch out for dangerous and reckless drivers. Unfortunately, these drivers often put other people in dangerous situations where they are helpless to avoid being injured in a collision. Know the signs of drunk, drowsy and distracted driving; and, if someone is speeding or following too closely behind you, be safe and let them go on their way.
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