Proposed snow tire law deserves cold shoulder

Sean Kennedy

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

Those winter ski trips are about to get considerably more expensive if state lawmakers have their way.

According to a report from the Coloradoan, Colorado legislators are considering a bill that, if implemented, would require drivers to have their cars equipped with either snow tires or chains during winter and spring months. The legislation aims to combat traffic congestion and accidents along I-70, that some proponents of the bill say cost “millions per hour” in delays and tourism losses. However, while every Coloradan is certainly familiar with the frustrating and occasionally panic-inducing experience that is wintertime driving on the highway, adding costly safety equipment to every noncommercial vehicle is not going to drastically improve things on the road. While everyone would certainly like to see improvement in their winter- driving environment, requiring drivers to get snow tires would not be the most cost-effective solution.

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The main issue with this legislation is that fulfillment of its requirements is too expensive for average people to justify as working for their greater good. If this proposed bill is compared to the 5-cent plastic bag fee previously considered by Fort Collins’ City Council, the differences in their impact on consumers determine their feasibility. The plastic-bag fee was feasible because it was cheap; it would have reduced plastic bag use and pollution locally (the greater good argument in this case), while raising costs for consumers so minimally that the increase would have likely gone unnoticed. Requiring drivers to use snow tires is not feasible, because the expense to consumers would be monumentally more impactful. A set of snow tires can cost up to $600; for us Rams, that can be as much as a month’s rent. The state cannot expect all consumers to readily afford such a cost, and the law would not make any state money available to consumers to offset the considerable cost of complying with the law. These financial implications overshadow the “greater good” that would be accomplished through this measure.

Furthermore, this legislation does not target the area of this matter that actually requires attention. The biggest issue with the laws concerning winter driving is that most people are unaware of them. Under current law, drivers are already required to have their vehicles equipped with snow tires or chains, but only under certain weather conditions when transportation officials say the rule is in effect. Drivers are only fined if they get pulled over for causing an accident; one may be fined $132 for improperly equipped tires and causing an accident, or up to $656 if the accident causes a lane closure.

Until reading about this proposed snow tire requirement, I was unaware of this current legislation, and I would guess with reasonable certainty that most Coloradan drivers are just as uninformed. Because the current requirement of snow equipment on vehicles is handled on a case-by-case basis by transportation officials, state lawmakers would do better to communicate these rules to the public. Instead of requiring consumers to swallow a hefty expense to combat a seasonal issue, why not put more effort into making drivers aware of when and where  current regulations are actually in place?

Collegian Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @seanskenn.