Winter driving conditions serve up 3 car accidents

Posted: Tuesday, February 02, 2010

One day. One location. Two accidents. And a third accident occurred just a mile and a half away.

Coincidence? Could be. But authorities are holding up Saturday's series of crashes at or near mile 39 of the Seward Highway as an example.

"At this time of year, it's easy to think the worst of winter is over and we can drive fast. That's not necessarily true," said Cindy Cashen, Highway Safety Office administrator with the state Department of Transportation.

Alaska State Troopers responded to an accident at mile 39 on the Seward Highway at 10:56 a.m. on Jan. 30. Investigation revealed an anchorage woman had been traveling southbound when the vehicle in front of her lost control and started to skid. The woman tried to slow her own vehicle down, but in the process she lost control herself and slid across the road. Her vehicle collided with a snow berm and rolled onto its top. The woman and the children in her car were reportedly wearing their seatbelts and sustained minor injuries.

A little more than two hours later, troopers responded to an accident at mile 37.5 on the Seward Highway. A 34-year-old Seward woman, traveling northbound, lost control of her vehicle on the reportedly icy roads. The vehicle slid across the oncoming traffic lane and struck a guardrail, causing damage to the vehicle and the guardrail. All occupants of the vehicle were wearing seat belts and no injuries were reported.

At 8:18 p.m. Saturday, troopers were again called to an accident at mile 39 of the Seward Highway. A 43-year-old Soldotna woman was traveling southbound in her Chevrolet Blazer when she began skidding out on the ice. The Blazer slid sideways into a ditch and struck the end of a guardrail, which flipped the vehicle upside down in a position that trapped a 58-year-old passenger. Police had to extricate the passenger and she and the driver were taken to Central Peninsula Hospital, but both were said to be in stable condition. They had each been wearing seatbelts.

"We strongly encourage motorists to buckle up," Cashen said. "It's the best defense."

Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol Sgt. Eugene Fowler, who assisted with the response to the nighttime crash at mile 39, said road conditions were icy Saturday but not out of the ordinary for winter driving. He said that particular stretch of highway gives drivers a lot to deal with.

"Due to the way the road is there, the downgrade if you're going south and several corners, you need to slow down," Fowler said. "There's also the off ramp to go to Sterling. With all those things combined, it's certainly something you've got to pay attention to."

Cashen said the message to motorists should be to keep speeds under control, especially in high-risk locations.

"The road engineers are well aware already of the treacherous spots on their route. They do what they can, but dangerous driving is dangerous driving," Cashen said. "And it's up to each of us to drive according to the conditions."

Andrew Waite can be reached at

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