We live in Alaska. We know there's a season called winter. We know that season means snow. We know the winter season's 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.
Get a grip. An attitude like that is one of the hazards of the season.
It's time to face reality. Winter has arrived. The change in seasons requires a change in tires (studs, please) and a change in driving habits.
Driving the same speed that you drove during the summer on winter's slick roads 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?
You do the math. Add 10 minutes drive time to your destination and arrive in one piece. Or drive like it's summer, slide off the road and wait a couple of hours for a tow truck. And that's if you're lucky. If you slide into another car, just think of the cost of repairs and insurance and lost time. Let's not even think about what happens if someone gets hurt.
Of course, you've heard the safety tips at least as many times as the number of winters you've spent in Alaska. 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. What that means is slow down and increase the distance between your car and other traffic.
Studded tires all the way around are the safest.
Moose can appear out of nowhere. Again, 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. Please 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 forgot to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors Sunday when you changed your clocks, do it now. Such safety devices do no good if they aren't working properly.
These tips and many others were included in a special section in Tuesday's Peninsula Clarion. If you were too busy watching election results, we encourage you to pull "Let It Snow" out of the recycling bin and give it a read.
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. It's 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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