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Will Socks Make I-70 Safer?

Will Socks Make I-70 Safer?

[ Mon, 2009-10-12 01:35 ]
New substitute for tire chains may help truckers -- and ski commuters

Let's face it: Getting to Vail is often a pain. The drive to the Colorado resort from Denver International can be snowy, slow and crowded. On the one hand you've got overconfident locals in all-wheel-drives zipping from lane to lane; on the other you've got just-off-the-plane out-of-staters not wanting to crash the rental. Add to that the infamous truck traffic -- giant semis chugging up Vail Pass at a third the speed of their car counterparts, then jake-braking it down the other side -- and you've got an uncomfortable couple of hours at best, a perfect storm of highway danger at worst. Personally, we'd rather have high-speed rail service deliver us to and from the mountain (complete with bar car, natch), but many stars must align before a train rides I-70; until then, it's wheels for everybody.

A recent decision by the Colorado Department of Transportation, however, might alleviate some of these winter driving dangers. C-DOT has approved the use of "Auto Socks" for trucks -- fabric "socks" that slip over wheels and take the place of snow chains. The socks install in five minutes, versus 45 minutes for chains, and perform better than chains. Though they face fines for going chainless in hazardous conditions, truck drivers are frequently loath to stop by the side of the highway to install chains -- fine or no fine, hanging around the side of an icy highway is never a welcome idea. But trucks without chains can slide out and jackknife, causing endless delays up and down I-70. Easier installation means drivers are more likely to use the preventative gear, and more trucks with more control means a safer drive for everyone. “We're thrilled,” Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association told the Vail Daily regarding C-DOT's decision. “Safety is really the issue here, because the longer drivers are outside their truck, the greater the danger.”

It's a positive development, but we'll still keep in mind the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus whenever we set out to the mountain: "Let's be careful out there."