Mountains

Cortez area picks itself up amid arctic storm

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Jack Martens, right, Patricia Lacey and Hieu Tran clear the sidewalk in front of their townhouses Wednesday during the snowstorm.

By Jim Mimiaga Journal staff writer

It happens every year in the fall.

The first snows fly, roads ice up, and drivers lose control and crash, often causing injuries to themselves and others.

The Colorado State Patrol responded to a half dozen weather-related accidents that occurred throughout the day Dec. 4.

CSP Sgt. James Saunders views the problem of poor winter driving as more human error. Two of the accidents involved multiple vehicles with younger drivers.

“In every one of the crashes, exceeding a safe speed for conditions was the main contributing factor,” Saunders said.

Early morning commuters on Highway 491 near the Maverick Store witnessed a collision between a car and semitrailer that sent one person to the hospital and created a large fuel spill.

A 17-year-old female was driving a Chevy Malibu southbound when she lost control and crossed the center median into oncoming traffic, Saunders reported. She violently collided with a northbound semitrailer, rupturing its fuel tank, which spilled 75 gallons of diesel onto the roadway.

A passenger in the Malibu was taken to Southwest Memorial with unknown injuries, according to the report. Both vehicles had to be towed from the scene, and the car was destroyed with most of its roof ripped off.

“It's always scary when you hear car versus semi. They were both wearing seat belts, otherwise it could have been a lot worse,” Saunders said.

The woman was cited for careless driving causing bodily injury.

The posted speed limit there is 55 mph, but that is intended for dry conditions only, Saunders said.

HazMat crews, including from the Cortez Fire Protection District, responded to the spill and cleaned up the fuel.

An inexperienced driver caused an accident at the intersection of County Road S and Highway 491.

Ivette Jimenez, 19, failed to stop her Ford F-150 in time, and rear-ended a Chevy Malibu waiting to make a left turn. There were no injuries, and both drivers were wearing seat belts. Jimenez was cited for driving too close for conditions.

“During icy conditions, greatly increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you,” Saunders advised. “Slow down, and you'll avoid ruining your day and someone else's.”

Hang up and drive, is also good advice. It is estimated that there are 100 potential distractions for every mile driven, and the most common are cell phones, texting, weather, the radio, food, drink, scenery, pets, kids, grooming, and malfunctioning vehicles.

The CSP advises drivers to report aggressive and reckless driving by safely pulling over and dialing *CSP (*277).

“We don't have to see the violation to issue a citation,” Saunders said. “We rely on the public being our eyes out there.”

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