Five Safe Driving Tips for the Alaska Winter
Driving in the Alaskan winter can be pretty dangerous. Half of all traffic accidents and one third of all traffic fatalities are attributed specifically to wintery road conditions such as ice, slush, or snow on the roads. While the winter weather can’t exactly be avoided, here are five tips to help you drive more safely on the snow-covered Alaskan roadways.
1. Slow down!
Speed-related accidents are the number one culprit of roadway accidents and deaths. The Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that the number of speed-related traffic incidents increases 10-20% in winter months. Remember—speed limits are set for ideal road conditions, so it’s important to go slower when the road conditions are poor or when visibility is bad. Ice can be invisible on the roads, and snowy weather can significantly lower visibility; both of these factors put you and other drivers at risk. Lowering the speed at which you drive can help reduce the risk of an accident and lower the chances of serious injury or fatality if you do lose control of your vehicle.
2. Wear your seatbelt and use proper restraining equipment for children.
Seatbelts, car seats, and booster seats for young children can reduce the chances of major injury and death by 40-50% for children riding in winter weather conditions. The CDC recommends car seat use from birth to age 5 for children and using a booster seat from age 5-12 or until they reach 57 inches tall and can properly fit in a seatbelt. Children should always be seated in the back seats as airbags can injure children sitting in the front.
3. Don’t drink and drive, and watch out for alcohol-impaired drivers.
Driver-impaired crashes surpass speed-related crashes between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Be more wary of other drivers on the roads if you’re driving during these hours as they can put you at greater risk. Always make a plan if you intend to drink, and if you have a little too much at a holiday party, call a taxi, ask a sober friend to drive, or wait it out before driving on the winter roads.
4. Watch out for moose at dusk in winter months.
As you know, concerns about collisions with Moose are with us in Alaska always, especially in hours of darkness, and
in the winter on the Glenn Highway. During the years of heavy snowfall is in even greater damage, as moose are foraging wherever they can along the highway. I personally saw the remains of a moose collision on the Glenn Highway, between Eagle River and the Valley, in broad daylight in August this year, and in April of last year we almost hit a moose directly in front of us, crossing the Glenn Highway near downtown, as we drove from the airport about 2 o’clock in the morning. Never make any assumptions about the danger of moose on the road, regardless of the daylight situation and the weather. Neither you nor the most will be coming out on top!
5. Stay warm.
Keep an extra blanket or two in the trunk of your car. If you find yourself stuck in the cold, bundle up with the blankets and any extra clothing or even newspapers. Make sure you clear the area around the exhaust of your car to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning; then run the heating in your car for 10 minutes out of every hour until you can signal for help.
To stay safe on Alaskan roadways in winter, remember to stay warm, wear your seatbelt, stay sober, and watch out for all hazards, especially moose on the road and impaired drivers. Most importantly, slow down in treacherous winter weather!
Most winter car collisions are the result of a driver not following one or more of these tips—and injuring someone else who was driving safely. If you’ve been hurt in a car crash and someone else is at fault, call the Law Office of William D. Cook. It’s tempting to think, “maybe it will go away,” but it won’t, and you need to make sure you contact an attorney as soon as possible to receive the compensation you are owed. Please contact our office at (907) 694-2000 or fill out our free case review form to start the process today.
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. (2015, July). 2011 Alaska traffic crashes. Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Retrieved from http://www.dot.alaska.gov/stwdplng/transdata/pub/accidents/2011_AK_CrashData.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, September 12). Child passenger safety. CDC. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/passengersafety/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, November 26). Winter weather frequently asked questions. CDC. Retrieved from http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/faq.asp