Driving in Colorado ― Summer Driving Safety

August 22, 2019 - Statewide Traffic Safety - Travelers urged to be aware of potential challenges when driving during the upcoming Labor Day holiday

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CDOT PHOTO: A CDOT equipment operator responds to a mudslide on CO Highway 145 near Telluride. CDOT and CSP are encouraging drivers to be prepared for situations which may cause delays or closures of roadways.

COLORADO ― Many Colorado drivers and visitors to the state will take to the highways for one last summer get-away this coming Labor Day weekend. The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol are urging travelers to do everything possible to stay safe ― and that means being prepared.


The signs of summer are still here: afternoons get hot, clouds start to build, thunder roars – then the downpour! Heavy rains and summer storms can lead to challenging driving conditions. Colorado highways, particularly those in mountainous areas, can be vulnerable to the impacts of weather and the natural environment. Some roadways have already experienced incidents of flash flooding, mudslides and rock falls over the past few weeks. These events can cause major dilemmas for the traveling public and CDOT maintenance crews.  

It is important that the traveling public be aware of summer weather conditions and forecasts. Just as motorists prepare for driving in the winter time, during summer months, travelers should also be ready for heavy rain storms, hail storms and what can potentially occur after those storms – flooding, mudslides and falling rocks. 


The safety of motorists is vital. When CDOT and CSP determine that a road must be closed, the decision is made to protect everyone including motorists and response crews. The need for some closures is obvious – mudslides cover the highway, large boulders tumble onto the road, or a severe vehicle crash occurs. But some closures may also be needed for an area that appears to be less impacted or less obvious of the required shut-down. The I-70 mountain corridor is a prime example. Some sections of the interstate curve through narrow canyons, the lanes can be divided by concrete barriers or portions of the roadway split with elevated levels. Because of these features, the closure may be needed miles away from the actual incident, so that exits and alternate routes can be accessed. It may also limit the possibilities to turn traffic around.

If you are stuck in a closure waiting for a road to be cleared of mud or rocks, do not leave your car unless absolutely necessary. Never hang out in the grassy median located between lanes. If traffic is moving in the opposite direction, the median can be a hazardous area. Emergency response vehicles and heavy equipment may also need the median area to move about and access the emergency scene.

Lengthy closures on the interstate may also be the result of staged releases. As stopped traffic backs up, creating long lines, traffic will be let go in stages, allowing traffic queues ahead to clear, before releasing more traffic. 

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CDOT PHOTO: Travelers will be taking to the Colorado roads and highways over the Labor Day weekend. CDOT and CSP are encouraging drivers to be prepared. 


Highway closures can last for as little as a few minutes or for as long as several hours. When drivers set out on a trip, especially through high country roads or the I-70 mountain corridor, it would be wise to have the car supplied with an emergency kit. The kit should contain at the very minimum: water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket. Remember to also carry water for your pets if you’re traveling with animals. You may even consider packing some items to keep you or children occupied while waiting in the car. Activity books, colored pencils or a deck of cards can help pass the time.   


Heavy rains can cause flooding, mudslides and rock falls in regions downstream and on roadways adjacent to canyons, steep slopes or cliff walls. When motorists drive up onto a flooded area, there are several precautions to follow.  

  • Never drive through any flooded area, you do not know how deep or how fast the water is running. 

  • Even 8-10 inches of water can float an average-sized car, which can be easily swept off the road. 

  • Driving too fast on wet roads or in flooded areas can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Never use your cruise control during rainy conditions with standing water on the roadway.

  • Any amount of flooding or mud can obstruct the roadway and hinder drivers from knowing exactly where to drive. If you cannot see the roadway be smart and wait for the water to subside. 

  • Water and mud can contain unknown hazards hidden under the surface – rocks or other debris, like plant material and tree branches.


Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:



To heighten safety awareness, CDOT recently announced its Whole System — Whole Safety initiative. This project takes a systematic, statewide approach to safety combining the benefits of CDOT’s programs that address driving behaviors, our built environment and the organization's operations. The goal is to improve the safety of Colorado’s transportation network by reducing the rate and severity of crashes and improving the safety of all transportation modes. The program has one simple mission—to get everyone home safely.


CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees located throughout Colorado, and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated inter-regional express service. Governor Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s inter-modal mobility options.