Winter has hit us literally.
Tuesday morning's dusting of snow left the roads in the central Kenai Peninsula area plenty slick. Even one of the Clarion reporters felt the impact of Mother Nature's call, so to speak. He's OK, but the back of his truck didn't fair quite as well.
The fact is, we live in Alaska. We know there's a season called winter. We know that season means snow, and we know the first snowfall is as certain as death, taxes and lost computer data.
Nevertheless, we drive as if it were summer even after the white stuff has fallen as if pretending the roads aren't icy and slick will make it so.
Summer is over, folks. It's time to get a grip. Winter has arrived.
The change in seasons requires a change in tires and driving habits.
Driving the same speed you drove during the summer means driving too fast for conditions. Eventually, you'll have an accident. Maybe you'll just slide off the road. Maybe you'll hit someone. Maybe you or someone else will be hurt or worse.
Wouldn't it be worth an extra 10 to 15 minutes to slow down, get to your destination safely and avoid all that hassle?
Of course, you've heard the safety tips at least as many times as the number of winters you've spent in Alaska. But they bear repeating. If one more person puts them into practice each season, it's potentially one less accident. With that in mind, some seasonal reminders:
* Common sense is the best defense against accidents in winter. That means slow down and increase the distance between your car and other traffic. It also means get off the cell phone and put your hands on the steering wheel both hands.
* Studded tires all the way around are the safest.
* Moose can appear out of nowhere. By decreasing your speed and increasing the distance between you and other cars, you reduce the chances of a dangerous collision.
* A winter survival kit can keep an inconvenience from turning into a catastrophe. It should contain a flashlight, blankets, booster cables, a warning device (flares or reflective triangle), a small bag of abrasive material (sand or cat litter), a cloth towel or roll of paper towels, a small shovel, water, some emergency food and a book of matches.
* An ice scraper and good windshield wiper blades are a must for good winter visibility. Don't try to save time by scraping just a little hole in the ice off your windshield. A credit card is no substitute for an ice scraper. Avoid those drivers who have not cleared their windshields they can't see you. Also, don't forget to clear the snow from your headlights and taillights.
* No matter how short a trip you're making, dress for the weather. If you have car trouble or are involved in an accident, you'll be glad you took the time to don your boots, coat, hat and mittens. At the least, keep some winter clothes in the car for an emergency.
* Four-wheel drive does not protect you from accidents. It may help you maneuver through snow, but it absolutely will not help you stop on a slick road.
Slick roads are just one of the seasonal hazards facing Alaskans.
Danger from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning are two others. As with other winter hazards, prevention and precaution can go a long way.
If you haven't already, perform what should be routine fall chores, including cleaning your wood-stove chimney and checking to make sure your oil-fired and natural gas furnaces and boilers are working properly.
And if you haven't changed the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors lately, next Sunday, Nov. 4, is daylight savings, so when you change your clocks, change your batteries. Such safety devices do no good if they aren't working properly.
Winter is a time when things should move at a slower pace especially on slick roads. It's a time for recharging after the never-ending days of summer. A time to celebrate the uniqueness of our northern climate, listen to the snow fall and bask in the dance of the northern lights.
Let's not spoil it by causing accidents that could have been avoided with just a little care and foresight.
In the meantime, let it snow.
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