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Anchorage, Alaska 99503

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Winter Is Coming…

November 4th, 2015

Brace yourselves! Winter is coming! No, not the fun Game of Thrones winter. The real deal: dark, endless Alaskan winter. Long, dreary, and cold. So cold. Cold, snowy, and icy. And you’ve got to drive in it. It’s not my idea of a good time and probably not yours either, but unless you have a half year of dry goods, bottled water, and toilet paper packed into the garage, plus a very understanding employer and really amazing wireless, you don’t have much choice. On the plus side, there are things you can do to make it a little less painful.

At this point, you’ve either switched to snow tires (legal starting September 15 in Anchorage) or you’re planning to make it through the season on all-weather radials. (If you’re still planning to switch to snow tires, you might want to get to it. Because … uh … WINTER IS COMING.)

Anyway, for the sake of this post, we’ll assume that you’ve got the tires you’ll have. Still, there’s some good prep you can do to keep yourself safe and warm and your car in good working order, which is the first step to a good driving experience. Safety first, kids! Before you get in the car (like, the day before):

  • Those tires we were talking about? Make sure they’re properly inflated. Makes a huge difference in how the car handles, not to mention how long the tires last.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full in cold weather to prevent the freezing of fuel lines.
  • If you’re driving a diesel, make sure it stays warm enough to start by using block heaters and/or other methods.
  • If you’re going to be driving out of town, it’s a good idea to have blankets, food, water, and any necessary medications in the car in case you get stuck.

And then shortly before you hop in your car to go:

  • Never warm up your vehicle in an enclosed space like a garage. Because carbon monoxide.
  • It’s also not a great idea to warm your car up outside by starting it and leaving the keys in it. That’s a good way to get your car stolen. A better option: remote start.
  • Dress warmly, or at least take a coat and gloves with you. Maybe you’re just in town, but if it’s 15 degrees and you end up having to walk a half mile because you slid into a curb or ditch, a sweater isn’t going to cut it. You probably won’t freeze to death, but you’ll be pretty miserable, and you could end up with frostbite or worse.

Hey, you’re in your car, FINALLY!

  • Great! Now, fasten your seat belts. Before you even shift into gear, make sure you and all your passengers are safely buckled in. I think most people do this by now, but a little reminder never hurt.
  • Woo hoo! You’re moving! If you’re moving on snow or ice, though, go more slowly than usual. Allow more time for EVERYTHING because everything will take longer. (Just imagine snow and ice as a whiny toddler hanging on your legs as you try to walk. It’s like that.) Stopping. Starting. Turning. It’s just slower. Gentle pressure on the gas pedal, gentle pressure on the brakes.
  • Speaking of stopping, don’t. If you can help it, don’t stop. Coming up to a red light? Slow down and see if you can hit it green. It’s much easier to keep going at a slow pace than to stop and start again on slick pavement. Inertia is a harsh mistress.
  • But if you have to stop, in the name of all that you believe in, do not stop while going uphill. Do. Not. Just don’t.
  • And perhaps most importantly: if you begin to slide into a curb or ditch or the nearest McDonald’s, avert your eyes! That’s right. Don’t look at the thing that your brain desperately wants you to look at. Point your eyes where you want to go (which typically would be the street). It’s science, people. Believe.

So, suppose you fail in your attempts and end up hitting another car or sliding into a ditch anyway. What now? Well ... now you wait until my next post. But seriously, try not to do that, k? Be safe.

Written by: Evelyn Stice