Travel Restrictions for Vail Pass

CDOT Rules and Travel Restrictions for Vail Pass

by: Ursula Nizalowski

Located within Colorado, Vail Pass is considered the easiest way over the Rocky Mountains. It’s along the Route 6 interstate highway which cuts through the Rockies. With that said, the pass has many winding turns which can make it dangerous to traverse. This is especially true during the winter.  For this reason the Colorado Department of Transport (CDOT) has special driving laws related to traveling over the mountains in the colder months of the year. Additionally, they have certain restrictions and fines along with the CDOT rules for safely driving over Vail Pass.

Travel Restrictions for Vail Pass

Traction Law/Code 15

Because ice and snow are solid forms of water, they cause things like vehicles to slide. This can lead to severe accidents if the drivers dont have right equipment. So when there are winter storms or similar conditions in places like Vail Pass, the Traction Law is activated. It requires all vehicles to have a certain tread depth in their tires and/or traction devices such as chains on.

2019 changes

But in 2019, a few changes were made to law including: the minimum tread depth, which is now 3/16”, and a permanent activation of the law in certain areas. These include the part of I-70 that goes from Dotsero to Morrison through Vail Pass. According to Colorado State Patrolman Sergeant Blake White, as quoted on 9News, “We get so many crashes in the mountains because people are not properly prepared, they think they can drive up there, the weather changes and they get caught in the storms or sliding off the roadway…and we don’t want that to happen”.  

Passenger Vehicle Chain Law/Code 16

In addition to the Traction Law, there are other Travel Restrictions for Driving Vail Pass. Another law, the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law is activated when severe storms happen in the winter season on Vail Pass. This law requires that every vehicle have “chains or an approved alternative traction device” on according to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website. The only alternate traction device that’s legal in Colorado is the AutoSock. This is a cloth-like cover that goes over the tires. While the Colorado Chain Law affects the use of tire chains in winter, the AutoSock doesn’t have any specific laws related to its usage.

Restrictions & Fines

The amount on fines depends on the offense. For instance, if a person is caught driving over Vail Pass without the proper equipment when either of the above laws is in effect they “could be fined more than $130” CDOT says. By comparison, blocking any of the roads along Vail Pass without proper equipment on during the enforcement of either the Traction or Passenger Vehicle Chain Law might result in the driver being fined $650 and higher. As for restrictions, “Truckers are required to carry chains from September 1st to May 31st between Dotsero and Morrison” as stated by Drive Colorado. For any accidents that do occur along Vail Pass, though, feel free to contact accident attorney Rick Wagner.