The Alaska midnight sun is distracting making it hard to appreciate brake lights on the Highways and the beautiful scenery from mountains, foliage and wildlife is a major distraction this time of year. Of course no texting and driving and if you’re lost, pull over to find your way or get directions rather than looking at GPS on your phone.
According to news reports, police responded to more than 85 crashes – including ten with injuries – in Anchorage alone. While weather can make driving more difficult, some precautions might reduce your risk of a wintertime car accident.
Of course, it is not only the midnight sun that causes accidents, but also a number of other factors that contribute to the increase in preventable car accidents during all months of the year. You can avoid some of the most common causes of Alaska car accidents by following a few simple rules of winter driving.
Reduce your speed.
On November 2, as commuters tried to get to work on a frozen sheet of previously melted snow, Alaska State Troopers were busy handling wreck after wreck. In the valley alone, there were 37 accidents by 3:30 p.m. according to media reports. One of these accidents involved a young man who failed to adequately slow his vehicle before an intersection and slid into another vehicle.
In at least two other incidents, speed also played a role. This is not surprising given that the U.S. Department of Transportation states that speed is a main factor in multi-vehicle collisions in the United States. Some accidents – even in winter weather – are avoidable simply by slowing down. Even when a crash does occur, at slower speeds it is much less likely to cause serious injury or death.
Speed limits are set based on clear roads and near-perfect conditions. Any time you are not in optimum driving conditions, slowing down – even below the speed limit – could save your life. This includes when rain, snow, fog, or even the headlights of other cars reduce your visibility.
Also be sure to leave extra space between you and the car in front of you. This allows you more time to react if you hit ice, another driver begins to spin, or other hazards appear.
Anticipate where there may be danger.
Distracted driving plays a huge role in causing avoidable car accidents because it takes drivers’ attention away from what is happening around them. With the rise of text messaging and smart phones, these accidents have increased in frequency.
Anchorage has not been immune from this trend. A pedestrian was struck and killed on the Tudor Road overpass above the Seward Highway in April of 2011 by a texting teen, for example. In another incident, a distracted driver – allegedly reading a text at the time of the crash – collided with another vehicle in February of 2013, killing a mother of two.
The best way to avoid an accident caused by distracted driving is to watch the road ahead of you and pay attention to traffic around you. Looking down the road in front of you offers you a chance to see any hazards ahead, and gives you plenty of time to react and avoid them.
If you notice another driver looking at his phone or eating while behind the wheel, take extra caution. Drivers who are looking at their phones, eating, putting on makeup, or doing other things may not be aware of your presence, and this could lead to a perilous situation if you do not pay careful attention and drive defensively.
Watch out for animals.
A collision with a large animal can cause extensive damage to your vehicle, in addition to severe or fatal injuries to you and your passengers. In October 2015, a South Anchorage man died when he hit a moose near the intersection of DeArmoun and Norgaard Roads.
This type of accident is on the local Anchorage news often. In fact, Alaska has one of the world’s highest rates of moose versus car collisions per mile driven. Unfortunately, collisions with moose are also more dangerous than hitting a smaller deer because of their size and build. Moose are tall, with massive bodies and comparatively thin legs. Their height, especially when paired with the growing popularity of smaller compact cars, means the majority of their body weight is above the car’s bumper. When you hit a moose, it is more likely to fly into the windshield.
A number of large mammal species call Alaska home. In addition to moose, drivers should be on the lookout for other animals including: bears and caribou
The best way to avoid colliding with one of these large mammals is to spot them before they cross the road. This can be difficult because in winter they often travel along cleared roadways to avoid deep snowdrifts, and feed on easily accessed shrubs and other plants growing along the highway.
Most accidents involving these animals occur between December and February, when it is dark and snowy. By deliberately scanning for wildlife along the sides of the road and the median while you are driving, you can increase your chances of spotting the animals before they attempt to cross the road. If you see one, slow down and remain alert as you pass. In addition, be aware that if you spot one animal, there may be others nearby.
Drive for the current road conditions.
Every year, the number of rear-end accidents skyrockets for a few weeks after the season’s first snowfall. Drivers are driving in the same way they do on dry pavement, and slide into other cars or through intersections. Simply being aware of the current road conditions and driving more cautiously when it is wet or icy will reduce the risk of this type of accident.
When road conditions are questionable, there are a number of resources that can help you identify the safest route. These include:
- Calling 511 for current road conditions on major highways
- Snow Plowing in Anchorage online mapping tool
- Local news for weather and traffic reports
In an accident? Call Kelley & Canterbury, LLC
While you may take precautions to reduce your risk of being involved in a car accident in Anchorage, other drivers around you may not. If you are involved in a wreck that somebody else caused, you may be eligible for compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance policy or by filing a lawsuit.
The car accident attorneys at Kelley & Canterbury, LLC can help you determine what damages you may be able to recover, including money to cover medical treatment, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Contact us at 907-276-8185 to schedule an appointment today.