Winter driving on snow and ice carries its own unique challenges and overconfidence and inexperience are often primary factors in snowy accidents. So if you’re traveling to Alaska this winter here are some tips to keep you safe on the roads.
Tip #1: Slow Down!
It’s true that the speed limit says 55mph on the highway, but that is the speed for perfect driving conditions. When the roads are covered with snow and ice that is not the time to go the speed limit. For most of the winter, Anchorage roads are covered with a layer of snow, and they can even get bumpy as that snow settles in with so many vehicles driving on it. The best thing you can do is to slow down, even on the highways. If there is a snow storm on top of the wintery roads you the conditions could require speeds as slow as 25mpg or less!
Tip #2: Get Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
All vehicles from 2012 onward are now equipped with ESC, and it improves your vehicle’s stability by detecting and reducing skidding. The thing is, it’s important to have quality tires and still drive to the weather conditions. ESC cannot overcome the laws of physics. So if you’re taking a corner too fast or driving 60mph when you should be doing 20mph, you’re not going to be able to depend on your ESC.
Tip #3: Understand ABS vs. AWD
Neither anti-lock breaks (ABS) nor all-wheel drive (AWD) are miracles on snowy or icy roads if you are driving beyond what the weather conditions permit. AWD provides forward traction and is very helpful when you are getting started at slippery intersections or in deeper snow. They can also be helpful when you’re trying to get up a steep, slick hill. However, AWD does not help you stop!
ABS can help you stop, but again, it is not a miracle worker. The proper way to use ABS is to stomp on the brakes as if you are trying to put your foot through the floor and hold it there! If you hear a clicking noise, then you know the ABS has activated and is working. You do not need to pump the brakes when you have ABS.
Tip #4: Hills are Tricky
Even with AWD, you want to avoid hitting the gas part of the way up a hill. There are a lot of hills in Anchorage and the best way to make it up them when they are icy is to build some momentum before the hill and let it carry you up the hill. There is a delicate balance to achieve; you want to maintain the momentum you generate prior to the hill, but too much gas or a sudden acceleration on the hill will likely cause your wheels to spin out. If this happens you’ll lose your forward motion and end up sliding back down the hill or into a ditch.
Alaska is a beautiful winter wonderland and snowy roads should not stop you from enjoying it. The most important thing to remember is to slow down and drive to the road conditions. Take it slow and get to your destination safely.