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Steep grade may have contributed to catastrophic crash

At the end of April, a semitruck hauling lumber plowed into stopped traffic on I-70 in Jefferson County. Anyone who has driven into or out of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains has likely seen the signs warning truck drivers about steep grades. While the accident investigation is not yet complete, there is a good chance that the decline from Floyd Hill to Golden contributed to the catastrophic accident

In the winter, drivers in the Centennial State must exercise extreme caution to avoid an accident on mountain roadways. The danger does not dissipate when the snow melts, though. If you regularly drive on I-70, you must also be aware of the dangers of burned-out brakes. That is, when brakes on semitrucks overheat, they are no longer able to stop the vehicle effectively. Here are some tips for staying safe around 18-wheelers on Colorado’s steep roadways: 

Avoid sudden stops 

Semitrucks weigh considerably more than your everyday car, truck or SUV. Even if a truck’s brakes are functioning perfectly, it cannot stop as quickly as your vehicle can. Therefore, always avoid slamming on your brakes in front of an 18-wheeler. When descending out of the mountains, do not drive in front of semitrucks. Instead, give professional drivers plenty of room to manage an emergency. 

Do not block runaway ramps 

Along Colorado’s mountain interstates, highways and roads, you probably regularly notice runaway truck ramps. These ramps have deep gravel spread over a steep incline to stop trucks that cannot stop themselves. You must respect the runaway ramp. If you need to pull over, never block a truck ramp. 

Stash your smartphone 

Distracted driving is both common and dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, 10% of fatal automobile accidents had distracted driving as a contributing factor. When it came to injury accidents that year, 15% involved a distracted driver. Put simply, to stay safe around semitrucks and other vehicles, you should stay off your smartphone and focus on the road. 

Fortunately, runaway trucks do not cause many accidents in the Centennial State. Still, the disaster on April 25, 2019, makes clear that steep grades and hot truck brakes do not mix. By exercising some caution and driving responsibly, you can likely decrease your chances of sustaining a serious injury in an 18-wheeler collision.

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