Old Seward HighwayHwy
Anchorage, Alaska 99503

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Well, this sucks…

Written by: Evelyn Stice
November 11th, 2015

Well, this sucks. Despite my previous excellent advice and helped along by slick road conditions, you’ve gotten stuck, or even slid into someone or something. (Or been slid into.) Great. Now what?

First, of course, in the event of a collision, if you or anyone else involved has been injured, call 911. Or even if only your cars have been injured, call 911. If only your dignity has been injured, however, 911 doesn’t want to hear from you. If you’re in a city that requires it, like Anchorage (and there were no injuries), you’ll want to move the cars to a spot that doesn’t block traffic, such as a nearby parking lot. If you’re able, do all the normal post-collision stuff: call your insurance company, snap pictures of the accident, exchange information with the other driver, get statements from witnesses, post about your crappy day to Facebook. That kind of thing.

If you haven’t been in a collision but are merely stuck, you can call a tow truck, but you’ll feel mighty silly (and a little bit poorer) if the tow truck gets there and the driver hops in your car and simply drives it right back onto the road for you. So if you can do so safely, you should probably try to unstick yourself before admitting defeat. Here are some tips for doing just that.

  1. If you are anywhere where you might create a road hazard, put your emergency lights on. (Remember that winter conditions can make it harder for other drivers to spot you.)
  2. Clear any snow from in front of and behind your car with the snow shovel that of course is in your trunk. Break up ice with anything sharp you have available, being careful not to puncture the tires.
  3. While you’re out there: remove any snow, ice, or mud that might have gotten shoved into your exhaust pipe. Because carbon monoxide.
  4. If you’re by yourself, get back in the car, turn off electronic stability control if you’ve got it, and slowly, slowly (don’t jam on the gas) try to steer the car out of its current spot. If you can’t get immediately out, try going forward, then quickly reversing, then back and forth a few more times, also know as “rocking.” (Only try this a few times; too much and you can damage your transmission.) Sometimes this can get you just far enough out of the really slick spot.
  5. You can also use items to try to give your car traction: ice melt or kitty litter in front of/behind your tires, your car mats, even cardboard. I’ve successfully used cheap carpet mats that I happened to have on hand (I was stuck in front of my own driveway ... hey, it was really slick, and I lived on a hill!). Use what you’ve got as long as it won’t hurt your car, you, or anything else expensive.
  6. If you’ve got help, try having others push while you do all the above, if they can do it safely. IMPORTANT: Anyone pushing should be very careful not to exert themselves beyond what their bodies can handle. Every winter people die of heart attacks triggered by overexertion.
  7. Finally, once you get moving, don’t stop. Continue driving, slowly and safely—I know I keep using that word; that’s ‘cause “safely” is kind of a big deal—to your destination. Or back home. Back home is always a great option. I’m a big fan of back home. It usually has heat and warm beverages and wifi.
  8. Didn’t work, huh? Well, it happens. Time to call a tow truck. And post about the whole crappy day to Facebook.

That’s all for today. Next time we’ll talk about something a little more fun than the pain caused by eternal, endless, dark, dark winter. No, really. We will.