October 17th, 2017
Every city seems to have it’s own driving dynamic. Anchorage is a fast moving city with a few road quirks and light traffic enforcement—and most of the time we like it this way. When conditions are good it’s a hard charging city with people on the move and no apologies. Winter exacerbates our hard charging behavior into explosive accidents.
Even when a driver does everything correctly, another driver’s inexperience or inattentive behavior can suddenly and severely change the driving dynamic for everyone.
Help yourself navigate the rules-of-the-road and winter driving in Anchorage with these key observations and tips.
Put down the phone.
Focus is critical, even at stop lights. Use hands-free tech and keep your eyes and attention focused on the road around you.
Anchorage drivers run the yellow and, as a result, sometimes the red lights too.
Don’t be too eager to pull forward on a green. Like a pedestrian look left, look right before crossing the intersection.
Stop early, leave some space.
When stopping at red lights, you’ll want to stop early and then creep forward as cars approach from behind. Paying attention to approaching vehicles will allow you to give a little extra space to avoid a serious accident.
Be a good neighbor, clear your roof.
It’s easy to hit the remote-start and hit the road when the window is defrosted. Take a moment to clear the snow and ice from the hood and roof. Blowing snow cuts visibility and chunks of debris create hazards for motorists behind you.
All-wheel drive isn’t all-wheel stop.
All-wheel drive systems only provide assistance when accelerating. They offer no advantage when braking. Be sure you’re running a good winter tire for Anchorage’s icy intersections.
Posted speed limits are for dry conditions. Oddly enough, moose enjoy winter weather and do not care about the parent-teacher meeting you’re late for.
Tailgating is bad.
Leave space to stop. Tailgating takes options such as braking or lane changes away from other drivers to be able to avoid accidents.
Plan for the unexpected.
Have an exit plan of where to go. Always be aware of your environment and surroundings—parking lots, people, moving vehicles, animals, trees, shrubs… everything.
Yes! Sunglasses. Polarized specifically. They’ll help cut ice glare and improve visibility in conditions other than bright sun.
Avoid sudden, exaggerated movements.
A skid can be initiated when the inertia of the vehicle is different that the direction wheels are heading. Take your foot off the gas, don’t slam the brakes. Turn into the skid and steer the vehicle back to the desired direction.
Check the conditions.
Us the online tools Alaska511 for road conditions and Anchorage Police Nixle alerts do a good job of informing drivers of current conditions. Check out the Facebook group, “Glenn Highway Traffic Report” for user generated reports about road conditions between Anchorage and the MatSu.
Keep a coat and gloves in the car.
We’re Alaskan, we’re tough and acclimated to quick bursts from the house to the car. Don’t get stuck responding, or worse, in an accident without some gear. Add a first aid kit, flares, and some hand warmers to be prepared.
Turn off lane keep assist.
If your vehicle is equipped with Pilot Assist, lane keep and other assistive technologies drivers may consider deactivating the technologies that automatically steer the vehicle—the ruts in the roads confuse the systems and can steer vehicles into guardrails or ditches.
Avoid cruise control.
Even roads that look clear can have sudden slippery spots which often triggers cruise control to accelerate erratically. Using the brake on these spots will could cause drivers to lose control of the vehicle.
Invest in good wipers.
A good winter wiper can help maintain visibility in heavy snow conditions. Also, use a winterized washer fluid. Wipers on = lights on.
Studded or studless winter tires offer the best traction because the rubber is designed to remain pliable in cold weather. Snow tires also offer siping and big blocks to power through snow.
Winter is dangerous for for all drivers but it’s especially hard for those who’ve never experienced it behind the wheel. With some common sense, remaining observant and a little luck we’ll get through it together. Be safe out there.