Underscoring the dangers of U.S. Highway 160’s Wolf Creek Pass, highway authorities plan to stop semitrailer drivers and educate them about how best to navigate the pass, which features a steep 8-mile descent and several hairpin turns.
During the month of October, the Colorado Department of Transportation with Colorado State Patrol will conduct “safety checks” at the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, which sits between the towns of Pagosa Springs and South Fork.
Safety checks, according to CDOT, involve interviewing drivers, informing them about locations of tight turns and educating them about the importance of downshifting and maintaining a slow speed on the pass’s west side.
“Stopping (commercial motor vehicles) and talking with drivers has proven successful,” State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll said in a news release. “Letting drivers know what they are in for coming down the pass can prevent a potential crash.”
Wolf Creek Pass is notoriously difficult for semitrailer drivers, so much so that CDOT launched a “Beware the Wolf” campaign to alert drivers about the dangers of the mountain road.
From 2015 to 2019, there have been 47 semitrailer crashes on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, according to CDOT data. Three of those crashes resulted in fatalities.
Most of the crashes occurred at the switchback curve near the Wolf Creek scenic lookout area, as a result of drivers going too fast and oftentimes blowing out their brakes.
George Hudran, CDOT maintenance foreman for Wolf Creek Pass, said in a statement the pass can be deceiving to the traveling public because it is wide with three and four lanes along some stretches and ample shoulders.
“Many truck drivers are fooled by these road features, to only find themselves out of control once they’ve made it halfway down the pass,” he said.
As a result, for the past few years, CDOT has improved striping and lane configuration, constructed a concrete barrier near the scenic overlook and installed additional warning signs.
But it is also incumbent for drivers to educate themselves about their routes, Hudran said.
“Knowledge and understanding of our state roadways is extremely important when traversing over mountain passes, especially one like Wolf Creek Pass,” he said.