For as much mental energy and conversation as Alaskans devote to the coming of winter and the timing of its first snowfall whether with anticipation or dread it is truly amazing that they’re so unprepared for it.
Temperatures have been inching downward for weeks. Morning frost has been covering the lawn with increasing regularity. Kids, adults, cheechakos and homesteaders alike have been pondering the age-old question: When will it snow?
Despite all this brain power going to the weather, when the white stuff fell Thursday, drivers weren’t ready for it.
Winter roads already claimed their first victim on the Kenai Peninsula, when an Anchorage man skidded off the road and into some trees near Mile 74.5 of the Sterling Highway on Thursday.
Law enforcement officers and rescue agencies have been busy responding to other skids, fender-benders and crashes since the roads took a turn for the icy.
It should go without saying that snow and ice necessitate more careful driving practices. But apparently a reminder is in order:
That’s the simplest, yet most important thing to keep in mind when driving in winter conditions.
You might be able to apply the brakes mere feet before your driveway in the summer, but doing so this time of year will likely land you in a ditch, if you’re lucky, a hospital if you’re unlucky and a casket if you’re really unlucky.
Are you running late for work, and want to fly by the vehicle in front of you that’s puttering along a few miles per hour below the speed limit? Be late. Shaving a few minutes off your commute isn’t worth the risk to yourself and everyone else on the road by driving aggressively.
Visibility can be poor with falling or blowing snow, fog and the darkness that got even worse today with daylight-saving time. High beams and fancy additional lights help, but they’re not a cure-all that makes it safe to speed. Moose can dart out in front of even the most well-lit vehicles, and seeing that patch of ice gleam in the headlights doesn’t mean you won’t still skid over it.
Speaking of ice is your vehicle prepared to deal with it? No matter where you fall in the studs vs. all-weather tires vs. four-wheel drive debate, put some serious thought into the rubber that meets the road on your vehicle. Are your tires in good shape? Are they suitable for all the inclement conditions that can occur on peninsula roads everything from puddles to drifting snow, and glare ice to chunky ruts left by other vehicles?
Put some thought into the rest of your vehicle, as well. Get a tune-up, change the oil and have that knocking sound checked out now. Don’t chance a breakdown when the weather is even colder.
All that being said, accidents do happen, even when someone takes all the driving precautions they can. That’s when it pays to take precautions in stocking your vehicle. Have an emergency kit ready. Carry a cell phone. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to get there so they can look for you if you don’t show up.
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