FAQ

The FAQ has the following sections:


Winter Driving Tips
  1. Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm.
  2. If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
  3. Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or even candy bars for sustenance.
  4. Remember that 4-wheel drive does not mean 4-wheel stop. A four wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better on sheer ice than a 2 wheel drive vehicle.
  5. Be sure of your route. Don't go exploring in the back country without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location. The weather can change quickly and violently in the Rocky Mountains and not necessarily only in the heart of winter.
  6. Be sure you have good tires. The colorado state patrol reccomends at least 1/8 of an inch tread depth. All season radials on a front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations. Snow tires on most rear wheel drive vehicles are usually adequate. Chain restrictions in colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi's) and usually do not affect passenger vehicles.
  7. In poor visibility or even white-out conditions, don't drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents. Remember you can't see around mountain curves and corners either.
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911 in Colorado

According to the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) your cell phone company has devised a system where your 911 cell phone call will go to the closest designated emergency agency. For instance if you were driving near Grand Junction your phone call might go to the Grand Junction Police or Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

If your call is about an accident or breakdown, the incident will be referred to the closest Colorado State Patrol Office. There are six CSP offices in Colorado: Denver, Craig, Alamosa, Pueblo, Montrose and Grand Junction (Grand Junction will close in 2002).

If you dial *CSP on your cell phone you will be connected with the CSP office closest to you. This system was set up by the state to allow citizens to alert authorities to aggressive drivers and drunk drivers and can be used to report stalls and accidents.

Dispatchers say that quite often callers do not know exactly (or even remotely) where they are calling from. Because of that it is recommended that travelers keep track of where they are by monitoring a state map and keeping track of mile markers. Top


I saw your reports and found the actual conditions to be different, why?

Colorado weather is one of the most variable in the country. Geography, micro-climates and altitude changes all combine to not only vary conditions from minute to minute, but mile to mile. On secondary roads, rural routes and even non-instrumented highways, updates for COTrip are totally dependent on field reports, be it law enforcement or plow drivers.

Some time may have elapsed since the last field report was made. Because of this, the information from COTrip is meant for planning purposes only. Top


How often are road conditions updated?

Road condition information is updated as new data is acquired by this office. Because of the remoteness of some roads and the limited number of staff, some time may have elapsed since the last observation was reported. While our staff constantly monitors road cameras, news media and National Weather Service for changing conditions, the volatility of weather in Colorado means conditions can and will change from mile to mile or minute to minute.

Because we are a small office, and at times only one or two persons are on duty, some time lag between the COTrip information and 511 phone information may occur. Usually this is less than 10 minutes. Top


Why does COTrip only show one color code on the road when multiple conditions may exist?

With over 9,000 center lane miles of highway in Colorado to cover, it’s impossible to get as granular as we’d like. To avoid a “kaleidoscope” of colors and to give a usable representation of the travel route, we’ve opted to represent the most severe conditions reported along that road. These areas may be on a pass or in a canyon and my not be indicative of the entire route, but instead, the most active weather areas reported along a highway. Top


Why are some roads not covered by your Road Condition information?

COTrip.org covers most of the heavily traveled routes in Colorado, but you may find some roads omitted. While we strive to get a good feel for road conditions statewide, there are some areas where consistent, credible data is not available. Some rural areas are not covered by law enforcement road condition updates, cameras, or weather-stations and in some cases there is not even a person to call to ask the current conditions in rural areas. While they may be “CDOT” roads, much of the state does not have radio contact due to the geography. As our system becomes more sophisticated, with cameras and communications we hope to cover more of our state and continue to add more roads and routes.

A new technology CDOT is experimenting with will pull information directly from the snow plows, Drivers will input their conditions on a touch screen and the data will transfer to a server and ultimately COTrip.org. This should greatly increase our road coverage information. Top


When are seasonal roads and passes opened and closed?

Generally, Colorado’s seasonal roads and passes are open between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, sometimes longer if the weather co-operates. All of these routes are strictly weather permitting and may close at any time due to conditions. It is not uncommon to have snow on these roads even during summer months.

CO 82 over Independence Pass and CO 5 Mt. Evans road are maintained by CDOT. Crews use large snow blowers and front end loaders to clear these roads and usually work for weeks to get them open. Walls of snow over 20 feet tall must be moved following a typical winter. During the winter closures of Independence pass, the town of Aspen will need to be accessed using I-70 to CO 82 southeast out of Glenwood Springs.

US 34/Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park is maintained by the National Park Service. Cottonwood and Kebler passes are maintained by either County or Forest Service forces and are usually later to open as significant snow melt is required before attempting to plow or blade these roads open.

COS 1, Pikes Peak Road, is open all year, weather permitting call 800-318-9505 for info. Top


What are “Staged re-open” and a “Staged Closure” (or Phased open/closure)?

Staged or phased opens and closures are a concept that helps alleviate congestion in smaller communities when the highway is closed. This practice has been used for years in eastern Colorado and is now being implemented in our mountain areas.

During a closure, when a town or community “fills up” with traffic waiting for the road to reopen, the closure is then pushed back to a pre-determined location farther “upstream”. This helps allow local traffic and emergency responders keep access around town.

This concept is also applied to the reopening of the highway. Areas closest to the closure point are released first and allowed to clear before the outlying traffic is released. This helps to avoid secondary accidents and allows for smoother reopening of the highway.

Because of this, traffic may be seen moving on the corridor or on cameras before the road is officially announced as “open”. Top


Why are I-70 and other roads sometimes closed east of Denver when Colorado conditions are not that bad?

Often times this is part of the “staged closures” procedure. Closures in Colorado are not always dependent on Colorado conditions but those in other states. Most towns in Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas do not have facilities to accommodate large numbers of stranded travelers. Rather than send people “as far as they can go” only to end up waiting in an area with no food, shelter or facilities, CDOT will progressively close roads farther west as towns fill up. Top


How can I find information when away from my computer?

Road and weather info can be found by calling 511 anywhere in Colorado.

If your cell provider does not support 511 dialing, 303/639-1111 will also access the system.

COTrip.org may be found in a wireless format through GO.COTrip.org. Top


Why can’t you post when you think the road will reopen?

This for CDOT is a very slippery slope and a no-win situation. For weather related closures this is obvious, how can anyone predict the weather accurately? For accidents and incidents the same applies, there are so many variables, it’s almost impossible to “get it right”.

The problem is two-fold, if we over estimate, people either find lodging or take long distance alternate routes then are angry when the road opens sooner than predicted.

If we under estimate, then people waiting try to beat the rush “because CDOT said it would be open” check out of hotels, leave shelters and clog the roads and streets waiting for the road to reopen. At times these roads can remain closed for hours longer. This creates issues for emergency responders and persons trying to navigate around town as travelers queue up at the exit ramps and on the highway. Top


What are those cameras I see at intersections looking at?

Many intersections in Colorado are now equipped with cameras above the traffic signals. The images from these cameras are linked to control boxes next to the roadway and initiate the traffic light. Traditionally, the sensors that told the signal that a car was waiting were embedded in the road surface. Unfortunately, this equipment would have to be replaced when the road was resurfaced. By placing the infrastructure above ground, the equipment has a much longer life cycle.

Images from these cameras are fixed and are not monitored but simply tell the light that a car is waiting. camera usage for traffic image 1 camera usage for traffic image 2 Top


Why are some cameras not working?

Most of the camera images found on COTrip.org are full motion, pan-tilt-zoom cameras similar to those found in many casinos. Cameras in remote locations such as Monarch Pass and South Park/Kenosha Passes are attached to remote weather stations.

Many reasons may exist for a camera not posting. Images around the metropolitan areas are usually on fiber optics so utility cuts, power outages, equipment failures or simply re-booting our servers can all cause of problems.

For rural devices, communications usually consists of cellular or microwave links. If no signal is found when the server attempts contact with the field device it will move to the next unit until the next cycle. Poor cell contact, “dirty” power, lightning or other interference is often the cause of not having pictures available from remote sites. Top


What Directions are the cameras pointing?

Full motion cameras, such as those around Denver, will have two lines of text in the upper left corner. The first line states the road and location using either cross street or mile marker. The second will denote the direction the camera is facing.

Weather stations that are multi-view capable will have the direction posted as text on the picture.

Single view weather stations do not have labeling capabilities. Top


Can I get a recording of a specific camera on a certain date and time?

As per CDOT policy, no camera images are recorded. Top


Why are even some major roads not covered by camera images?

The biggest issue, even on major roads is lack of communications infrastructure. To place cameras along the highway requires a pretty robust network. CDOT currently has fiber optics on I-70 from Kansas to Frisco and portions of I-25 South of Denver. This is why we have cameras along these routes.

In Areas like I-25 north of Denver, US 285 and I-76, CDOT does not have fiber optics and other options such as T-1 phone lines are too cost prohibitive.

On a positive note, wireless communications is proving to be a promising alternative and we hope it will provide us an avenue to place cameras on other corridors. Top


Why are there no cameras on many mountain passes?

Future plans include additional cameras on most major highways and many mountain passes. But communications and power infrastructure are the biggest stumbling blocks. Most mountain areas and rural roads simply have no place to “plug in” devices and have no conduit to bring images back to be posted on the web. Even on “main roads” like I-70 power is very limited outside of populated areas.

The good news is, as technology advances, wireless communications options will present themselves and allow for additional cameras in more remote locations. Top


Why are you posting mostly still pictures of the traffic and not more full motion video?

Because of the sheer volume of video we now utilize, the band-width to provide full motion video to the public is not available. We do hope to expand the number of motion cameras on the COTrip site to 48 in the future. Top


Are passenger cars required to have chains in Colorado?

Passenger cars are not required to have chains in their car. On rare occasions road conditions may be so severe that law enforcement requires all vehicles use chains but occurrences are exceedingly rare.

More common is the requirement for all vehicles to have adequate snow tires or tire chains. Adequate snow tires are defined as tires marked M/S (mud/snow) or studded snow tires with tread depth of 1/8th inch or greater. Four wheel drive engaged is considered an alternative to adequate snow tires or chains for passenger vehicles.

Regardless of existing or reported conditions, CDOT highly recommends that all vehicles have tires suitable for traveling Colorado roadways in winter. Top


Must I carry tires chains on commercial truck to drive in Colorado in winter?

Colorado law mandates that commercial carriers using I-70 have tire chains in their possession adequate to properly chain up their vehicle from September 1st to May 31 between Milepost 133 (Dotsero) and Milepost 259 (Morrison Road). Top


As a Truck Driver, what do I need to know about Colorado’s Chain laws?

Colorado law mandates that commercial carriers using I-70 have tire chains in their possession adequate to properly chain up their vehicle from September 1st to May 31 between Milepost 133 (Dotsero) and Milepost 259 (Morrison Road).

Colorado law states that commercial drivers can be fined $500 plus a surcharge for not chaining up when the chain law is in effect. A commercial driver may be fined up to $1000 plus a surcharge if a vehicle is unchained when required, and as a result blocks the road.

Semi trucks need to chain up 4 DRIVE tires, either all four drive wheels on a single drive axle unit, or for twin drive units, either 4 outside tires or using quad rails, chaining up one full axle.

Chains are not required on trailers. Click here for Chain Law information Top


Why are Eastbound trucks being told to stage at Dotsero during chain laws and closures on I-70?

Although Colorado has a requirement that all commercial vehicles be in possession of chains on I-70 during winter months, some drivers opt to “wait out” the chain law. Unfortunately, the towns and roadways leading up to the chain up areas and closure points do not have sufficient parking, facilities or suitable truck access to hold the amount of commercial traffic sitting on the highway and city streets during chain restrictions or closures.

Chain up areas usually hold less than 20 trucks and have a 30 minute limit for parking. Trucks waiting for the chain law to lift or road to open, occupy these spaces and additional trucks end up double and triple parking on the highway or on city streets. This creates a hazardous situation for both drivers and emergency responders.

The Dotsero staging area has adequate facilities and parking for truck traffic waiting out the chain law or a closure. When all spaces are occupied at Dotsero, closures may be moved farther west. Top


How do you come up with the estimated travel times to post on the highway signs and web?

Colorado is one of the few states doing estimated travel times on a long distance rural interstate. The real key to generating times is the 400,000 toll tags in use around Colorado.

We read the tags moving in traffic, assign a random number and discard that number after use. (We only know a car went through, not who’s car and we do not “charge” a toll)

We then divide the highway into segments and “add” the average time it is taking cars in each segment to travel between readers. We discard times that fall outside the average (if a tagged car stops for gas it is not counted). Times are computed every two minutes and we never post a time that is faster than the legal speed limit.

The down side is the times are NOT predictive, we don’t know there will be an accident or incident 5 minutes from now. The system is only as good as the last car that went through and is essentially a “snapshot in time”. Estimates may also change in the time it takes to travel between signs.

In addition, the system can only function if traffic is moving, because it’s not “smart” it does not know there is an accident or how long that will take to clear, if cars are not moving for over 6 minutes, the system blanks until traffic moves again.

In these instances, the signs should be changed to reflect the incident or accident or other information. Top


Can I request messages on the electronic signs?

Federal guidelines prohibit the use of electronic signs used on the highway for personal messages or advertising of any kind. Top


Who can Close a Road and Why?

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) are the only two entities that can close interstate, federal or state highways in Colorado. They have different criteria for using their closure authority.

The CSP closes highways because of accidents. The CSP can keep a highway closed because of hazardous materials situations and because the highway is blocked by wreckage, debris or in some cases evidence that still needs processing. The CSP can not close highways because of road and weather conditions although troopers do report to CDOT on highway conditions statewide and do recommend closures and at times chain restrictions.

CDOT closes highways because of road and weather conditions including blizzards, slides and sometimes because of the potential for slides (snow, mud, or even rockslides). Overnight closures are rare but not unknown. Major blizzards have closed some highways for days. Massive snowslides, mudslides and even rockslides have kept buried or damaged highways closed overnight and even in some cases for several days.

Both the CSP and CDOT are dedicated to keeping highways open and to reopening closed routes as quickly as possible while still adhering to the highest safety standards at all times. Top


How are Mile Markers used?

Mile markers on Colorado roads are generally numbered from south to north and from west to east. For example, mile marker 1 on Interstate 25 (MM 1) is one mile north of the Colorado/New Mexico border. MM 1 on I-70 is one mile east of the Utah/Colorado border (odd numbers are assigned to highways running north and south, as I-25. East and west highways are numbered evenly, as U.S. 40).

Highways that do not begin at the border start with MM 1 one mile east or north of the highway starting point. For example, I-76 runs from Wadsworth Blvd. in the Denver area 180 miles northeast to Julesburg at the Nebraska border. MM 1 is one mile east of Wadsworth and MM 180 is the last mile marker on I-76.

Another example is state highway CO 119 in the foothills west of Denver. CO 119 begins in Clear Creek Canyon where U.S. 6 bends to the south and CO 119 continues north. MM 1 on 119 is one mile north of the 6/119 intersection. The final mile marker is at I-25 after CO 119 winds through the foothills and turns east at Nederland.

Mile markers are also used to determine exit numbers on Interstate highways across Colorado. Interstate exits are numbered by the closest mile marker on that highway. For instance, the I-25 Prospect Street Exit 268 at Fort Collins is approximately 268 miles north of the Colorado-New Mexico border and the closest mile marker is MM 268.

Mile markers are generally posted on the right side of the highway. The markers help to locate incident sites, for example, where a motorist might be stranded. Top


Accessing Information by Phone for Road, Weather and Construction Information
  • 303-639-1111 Denver Metro Area
  • 1-877-315-ROAD (7623) Outside of Denver Metro Area
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Seat belt and Child Restraint Laws in Colorado

Passenger Restraint Law
Colorado law requires the driver and all front seat passengers to wear safety belts whenever the vehicle is operated on a public highway in the state. The requirement does not apply if federal law does not require the vehicle to be equipped with safety belt systems. An example would be vehicles that were manufactured before the federal requirement (i.e., prior to the 1968 model year). The fact that seat belts were removed from a vehicle sometime after it was manufactured does not exempt anyone from the law if seat belts were original equipment in the vehicle. There is also an exemption for individuals with a physically or psychologically disabling condition when such disability would prevent the use of a safety belt. In order to be eligible for that exemption, a person must have a written statement from a physician. The statement must certify the disability and state the reason why use of a restraint is inappropriate. The adult seat belt law is a secondary violation in Colorado. That means that a police officer cannot stop a vehicle if that is the only observed violation. Some other law must be violated in order for the officer to make a traffic stop. Once stopped for another violation, a driver may then be cited for a violation of the seat belt law if applicable.

Child Passenger Restraint Law
In Colorado all children who are under the age of 4 and/or weigh less than 40 pounds are required to be in an approved child safety seat when being transported in a private passenger vehicle or in a vehicle being operated by a child care center. Children between the ages of four and 16 must be wearing a safety belt in front and rear seats. Unlike the adult safety belt law, the child restraint law is a primary violation. A vehicle may be stopped solely for such a violation if observed by an officer.

Colorado does not currently have a motorcycle helmet law. Top