The tragic death of 14-year-old Rylene Oskolkoff in a vehicle collision last Tuesday is a grim reminder that we live in a land and a climate that is inherently deadly.
We don't know exactly what happened; highway traffic investigators are still diligently working to answer that question. But weather and road conditions certainly seemed to be a factor.
So, as winter begins, we plead with you again -- respect the fact that we live in a hazardous place. Acknowledge that by taking all the precautions you can.
Number one -- slow down. Remember that snow, wet and heavy as it comes down, turns to sheets of ice in the right temperature conditions. A short run to, say, Cooper Landing, turns into an ordeal. And for those of us who make regular trips to Anchorage or Homer, the highway suddenly gets a whole lot longer and lonelier.
Make sure your vehicle is in top condition -- studded tires in good shape, windshield wipers really wipe (not just smear), all the lights work, fluids topped off.
Pay attention. If you find that you're singing along with the radio or getting involved in a conversation, stop doing that and pay attention to the road.
Pack the essentials for winter travel, including a flashlight (check the batteries), a small snow shovel, jumper cables. Carry your cell phone and let others know where you're going and when.
It's also best to know road conditions before you start a long drive. Dialing 511 gets you the state's road conditions report. You can also go to this Web site: http://511.alaska.gov for the same information, as well as the most current weather reports.
All we're suggesting is to get your head in the game and mind the road. This is Alaska, after all. The weather here isn't just an occasional nuisance. Under the wrong conditions, it can be unforgiving in the extreme.
In short: Be aware and take care on the roads this season.
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