The Jackson County Roads and Sheriff’s Departments urge travelers to not follow their GPS devices to navigate around road closures in winter storms.
When driving conditions deterioriate, there are times when roadways may be closed for safety purposes. And when this happens along Interstate 5 in our area, many drivers will blindly follow their GPS device as it diverts them onto high mountain routes only to get stuck and require assistance.
Many motorists, including semi-trucks which are prohibited under winter conditions, will divert onto roads like Dead Indian Memorial Road; a remote, steep, narrow road that is 1000’ higher in elevation than Siskiyou Pass and is far more difficult to drive than I-5. Most of these motorists are unprepared for the driving conditions and do not install chains and the natural result is multiple vehicles crashing or sliding off the road requiring assistance. “Diverting from major highways to rural, remote county roads during a winter storm in hopes that you can 'make it' is not a wise decision,” notes John Vial, Jackson County Roads and Parks Director.
Other challenging incidents have occurred when multiple vehicles diverted from Interstate 5 onto Colestine Road and have spent most of the night waiting for Jackson County Search and Rescue and County Road Department employees to rescue them. Sergeant Shawn Richards who has responded to incidents like this notes, “We are seeing an increasing trend of drivers choosing to blindly follow a GPS into areas they are not familiar with and as we have seen in other areas this can turn out tragic.” Colestine Road is a narrow, very steep, gravel road that is unmaintained during evening hours, that leads from the summit of the Siskiyou Pass into northern California. The route is signed as not being maintained after dark in the winter, yet drivers continue to use this route as a bypass in bad weather - it isn't.
In summary, just because your mapping app says the road is open does not mean it is a wise decision to travel that way. Remember, the farther off the normally travelled routes you get, the farther away from help you get. Therefore, only travel in these areas if you are fully prepared with emergency supplies for both your car and you; tire chains, blankets, water, food, etc.