Driving through the Colorado mountains can give you spectacular views and interesting, winding roads. Unfortunately, these roads can also be trickier to navigate for a variety of reasons. If you are taking a trip through the mountains, pay attention to these safety tips:
- Before you go. Your first order of business should be making sure your car can handle the trip. Your brakes and tires will get a work-out in the mountains and you want to make sure they are in top condition. Also check your wipers, defroster and lights. Weather up in the mountains may be very different than in the valleys. Remember that there can be snow at higher elevations much longer than at lower elevations. Check the forecast before you go. If the weather does turn on you, slow down and be extra cautious.
- Pack for an emergency. You should always have an emergency kit in your car, especially during the winter months. If you don’t, now is the time to add one, just in case you find yourself stuck and out of cell-phone range. Include food, flares, a warm blanket or sleeping bag and sand in case you find yourself stuck in snow. Be sure to also bring plenty of drinking water. You may need it at the higher elevations
- Follow the rules of the road. There are a few rules to remember when driving on narrow mountain roads that you generally don’t have to worry about other places. The car going uphill has the right-of-way in those narrow passes. Avoid the temptation to hug the center line. This practice can be dangerous on narrow roads that don’t always have much of a shoulder, if any. In addition, slowing down is fine, but don’t become a hazard to other drivers or block traffic. Instead, pull over if you need to.
- Don’t push your car too hard. Your car will not perform the same at 10,000 feet as it does at 2,000 feet, so be aware that you will have less horsepower. One rule of thumb is not to go down a mountain any faster than you would go up it. You also do not want to ride your brakes, however. They can overheat. Shift down to keep your speed under control. Watch your temperature gauge on steep upgrades. If your engine is getting hot, shift to a lower gear. If that does not help, pull of the road to let your engine cool, but do not shut the engine off. This rule applies to the driver, as well. Take plenty of breaks. Navigating these tricky roads can be mentally exhausting.
Make your mountain drive a trip to remember for all the right reasons. Stay safe and enjoy the wonderful views on those winding roads.