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Publish Date - March 21, 2022

Author: Greg Thibodeau

Categories:   Useful Automotive Information   

10 Tips to Safely Navigate Your Scenic Drive Up the Colorado Rockies

Every road trip warrants some preparation for your vehicle. Don’t leave home without checking the condition of basics such as the battery, windshield wipers, tires, fluid levels, lights and indicators. Going over these items can keep you safe, avoid additional expenses, and save you a lot of trouble.

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Every road trip warrants some preparation for your vehicle. Don’t leave home without checking the condition of basics such as the battery, windshield wipers, tires, fluid levels, lights and indicators. Going over these items can keep you safe, avoid additional expenses, and save you a lot of trouble.

Driving up the Colorado Rockies is even more taxing for your vehicle and its driver. It’s not a bad idea to have a mechanic give your car a tune up to ensure the vehicle will be able to handle the terrain. At the same time a few provisions and considerations for yourself can help make it a more enjoyable trip filled with happy memories.

1. High Altitudes Affect You And Your Car

At higher altitudes you may start to feel dizzy or have trouble breathing. Altitude sickness can develop quite suddenly so watch for the signs and pull over if you start feeling off. Pay attention to elevation signs alongside the highways which display how high above sea level you are. Avoid ascending too quickly and pay extra attention at any altitude over 8000 feet.

Just as your body can be affected by high elevations, your car can be too. The lower oxygen levels can diminish acceleration and power. Coupled with the steep inclines there may be situations on your road trip when your vehicle will not perform as you have grown to expect.

2. Bring A Map

Cell phone coverage in the mountains isn’t always reliable. You may not be able to look things up on the go and navigation may become unpredictable. Dust off the old fashioned paper map and plan your route before you set off. Have regular stops marked along with gas stations and other useful amenities.

3. Watch For Wildlife

The Colorado Rockies are home to a variety of wildlife. Plenty of times this adds to the beauty and charm of a road trip through these parts but critters can pose a danger on the roads. Moose, bear, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and deer are all large enough to be a substantial hazard if struck by a vehicle.

Slow down, drive cautiously, and pay extra attention. Be particularly careful around water sources where animals may cross the road to drink. If a collision with an animal is unavoidable, slow down the best you can, release the break just before impact, and don’t try to swerve. This gives the animal the best chance to dodge your vehicle while minimizing the damage if you do collide.

4. Always Be Ready For Snow

When traveling in the Colorado Rockies you should always be prepared for snow. At high altitudes it can snow even in the middle of the summer. Prepare your vehicle and its passengers for cold, ice, snow, and slippery driving conditions no matter what time of year it may be.

5. Make Sure Your Car Complies With The Law

The Colorado Department of Transportation monitors road conditions and implements temporary laws to keep motorists safe on mountain roads. You may, for example, encounter the traction law. Known as code 15, failure to comply with this law can get you fined $130 and if you get stuck because your vehicle was underprepared, you could be looking at a fine of $650.

6. Consider Keeping Tire Chains In The Trunk

If weather conditions get severe enough the Colorado Department of Transportation may issue code 16. Under this code all vehicles on the road are required to be equipped with snow chains or an alternate traction device. Be prepared by keeping a set of tire chains in the trunk just in case. You never know, they might come in handy regardless of what regulations are imposed.

7. Travel With A Survival Kit

When it comes to safety it’s always better to over prepare than under prepare. It’s even more true on mountain passes with unpredictable weather and questionable road conditions. Most people who are familiar with winter driving know the value of a well stocked survival kit.

A good kit should include car safety items such as road flares, emergency triangles, tow rope, shovel, jumper cables, and a bag of sand or cat litter for traction. You should also have candles, blankets, and extra clothes to keep warm. Don’t forget food, water, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. You will be grateful for these items if you are forced to stay in your car until help arrives.

8. Avoid Cruise Control On Slippery Roads

It may be tempting to turn on the cruise control on your road trip but it can be dangerous when road conditions are less than ideal. If your vehicle loses traction it may start accelerating in an effort to keep up with the set speed. This can make it more difficult to stay in control of the car and the last place you want to lose control is on a narrow mountain road with a drop on its side.

9. Fill Up At Every Gas Station

On many roads in the Colorado Rockies gas stations are few and far between. Don’t take the chance that you’ll run out of gas far beyond the last town you left behind with nobody around to help you. And if you do get stuck somewhere, having a tank full of gas will keep you warm and comfortable until you are found and rescued.

Remember that your vehicle will use more fuel than you’re used to. The high elevation and steep mountain roads will drain your gas tank much faster than you think. Don’t take the risk and use every chance you have to fill the gas tank.

10. Stay In Your Lane

You may not struggle to stay in your lane on regular roads but that may be more challenging when you realize there is a steep drop off to one side. You are not alone. The people you share the road with may be just as inclined to cross over that center line. Add distractions, unpredictable weather, and altitude sickness and you’re in trouble.

Remain alert and pay attention to the road and other motorists. If you are afraid of heights you may not be the best person to pilot the vehicle. Watch for signs of altitude sickness such as dizziness or headaches and pull over in a safe place if you start to feel ill.

Consider an SUV or truck with all wheel drive capabilities over a sedan or coupe. Don’t have one? No problem! There’s a handy tool to help you finance that new vehicle. Not only will it make your drive safer, the extra space allows for more cargo so you can bring those little luxuries to make your trip even more epic