If you think Alaska drivers are experts on the snow, think again.
Saturday’s snowstorm brought several fresh inches of fluffy stuff to the Mat-Su, and in the process unleashed hell on wheels. From the Glenn Highway to Seldon Road, from KGB to the Parks, traffic accidents had emergency responders jumping from scene to scene with shocking regularity as the crashes piled up.
Most of the wrecks were of the fender-bender nature, although a few people were transported to the hospital with minor bumps and bruises. The crashes also caused significant delays for drivers who found themselves trapped behind crash scenes while the roads were cleared.
The storm was a stark reminder of how quickly weather conditions can change in our area. Just a week ago, golfers were jauntily walking the Palmer Golf Course in short sleeves, taking advantage of the course’s earliest ever opening. But the links became a distant memory this weekend as the course was swallowed up in several inches of fresh snow.
The fact there were so many accidents is likely due to drivers’ complacency. Since we haven’t had to deal with bad road conditions all winter, it seems most folks have forgotten the basics of winter driving. So perhaps a quick reminder is in order as Old Man Winter makes his last stand.
First and most importantly, always drive for the road conditions. Just because the speed limit sign says 65 MPH doesn’t mean that’s how fast you should be driving. In fact, when visibility is limited and the roads are icy, drivers should use much slower speeds. Studded tires give some extra traction, but they’re of little use when trying to stop quickly on ice-covered roads. And 4-wheel drive is great for extra control, but it’s far from an excuse to put the pedal to the metal. In fact, it can give drivers a false sense of security and often it’s the bigger 4-wheel-drive trucks that find their way into the ditch.
Always drive with your headlights on, no matter how light it is outside. Although it may seem like they’re not needed to see the roadway, headlights serve the dual purpose of allowing other drivers to see you. Many roads mandate their use at all times, but it’s a good idea to keep them on wherever you go just to be on the safe side.
Next, plan ahead. Many accidents are caused by drivers who are in a hurry to get somewhere — drivers who take chances with all of our lives by trying to save a few minutes on dangerous roads. While we’ve all been late to an important event, there’s nothing that can’t wait. Especially when roads might be bad, please factor in the extra time needed and plan accordingly. You won’t be able to save much time by driving fast, anyway, and it’s a good bet you’ll arrive much later if you end up ditch diving.
Finally, have patience. This means increasing the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you and refraining from aggressive, emotion-based maneuvers. Road rage is a common cause of wrecks and one that’s 100 percent avoidable. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and please maintain a calm and courteous demeanor while behind the wheel. It’s not just good for other drivers, but it’s a good way to keep from getting too many additional gray hairs. Remember, there’s next to nothing you can do that will alter another driver’s behavior, but you can alter your own.
Although winter is nearly over, it’s not too late to practice safe driving conditions on icy roads. Please be safe out there.
— Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman,