Car in ditch next to road in snowy conditions


Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, LLC Feb. 24, 2022

The winter months in Colorado can be brutal and unpredictable. Colorado is among the states with the highest number of accidents caused by winter weather. Obscured visibility, snow, ice, and slippery roads contribute to thousands of winter-driving accidents across the state each year.

Winter weather accidents are more likely to happen when motorists are not prepared for hazardous weather and road conditions. That is why it is essential to understand safety requirements, driving tips, and liability for traffic accidents during winter in Colorado.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a winter weather collision, you must speak with our car accident attorneys at Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley. We handle all types of car accident cases, including those that occur due to winter or other adverse weather conditions in Durango, The Four Corners, Pagosa Springs, Cortez, and Telluride, Colorado.

How Is Fault Determined in Winter-Driving Accidents in Colorado?

Colorado follows the at-fault system for car accident settlements. Under at-fault rules, injured victims must file a third-party claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. Thus, determining who is at fault is always the first step toward receiving compensation.

However, when a car crash involves bad weather conditions, determining fault becomes more complicated. In winter driving accidents, it is necessary to have an experienced attorney investigate the winter weather accident and determine liability.

Liability for Weather-Related Negligent Driving Behavior

Under Colorado law, anyone who operates a motor vehicle owes a duty of care to everyone they share the road with. It means that motorists in Colorado have a legal obligation to drive safely and adjust their driving behavior according to weather and road conditions. Specifically, several laws in Colorado address safe driving and prohibit weather-related negligent driving behavior:

  • Speeding. Colorado law requires motorists to operate a motor vehicle at a speed that is reasonable and prudent for the existing road and weather conditions.

  • Reckless and careless driving. Drivers must drive carefully not to jeopardize the safety of other people. Driving in winter weather requires motorists to be even more careful.

  • Following too closely. Motorists must maintain a safe following distance between vehicles. There is a requirement to increase the following distance in winter weather because of decreased traction caused by slippery or wet road surfaces.

Car Safety Requirements for Winter Weather

There are specific requirements to increase car safety in winter weather. Specifically, Colorado law regulates the use of tire chains and minimum tire tread.

  1. Tire chains. Chains on tires provide greater traction on ice and snow. Colorado law may require the use of tire chains or alternate traction devices on two or more tires for all passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,000 pounds or less in extreme winter weather conditions. Chains are also required for all commercial vehicles on I-70 from September 1 through May 31.

  2. Minimum tire tread. In severe winter weather, the Department of Transportation may implement the so-called traction law on any highway in the state. When the government agency implements the law, all drivers must operate motor vehicles with winter tires that comply with the law.

Tips for Driving in Winter Weather

When driving in winter weather, there are specific things you can do to minimize the risk of winter-related accidents. Safety tips include:

  • Make sure that your tires are properly inflated when driving in winter weather.

  • Watch out for the implementation of the tire chain and traction law on Colorado roadways and highways.

  • You can drive in winter weather if your vehicle has adequate winter tires, the heater is in good condition, and the brakes are working properly.

  • When driving in winter weather, accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid sliding.

  • Maintain an increased following distance between a vehicle in front of you and drive slower than usual.

If weather conditions become too extreme, consider staying home and avoid driving as much as possible.

How Knowledgeable Attorneys Can Help You

In Colorado, winter weather can be brutal and contribute to thousands of accidents each year. If you were involved in a winter driving accident, you need to discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney to help determine liability for fair compensation on your behalf.

At Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, we proudly represent accident victims in Durango and Telluride, Colorado, as well as The Four Corners, Pagosa Springs, Cortez, and surrounding areas. Schedule a free case evaluation with our attorneys by reaching out to our office.