We were right at the stage where we were all sucking in air. Then, it was like the Hand of God, reached down and moved the truck back to his side of the road. We probably only had a couple of coats of paint left to go before impact. I don’t care how long you live in Alaska, you never get use to these near misses. I had already been in a near fatal car accident with an eighteen wheeler four years before in Washington State. I was never overly confident and tended to err on the side of caution if anything.
Our car insurance rates were higher in a suburb of Houston than they were here in Alaska. Which to me, didn’t make sense. I had seen way more accidents in Anchorage than I ever did in the Houston metropolitan area. It was also obvious that the drivers in Alaska were just flat out bad drivers. Have you ever lived some place that you just notice a trend of bad driving? I made that deduction about Alaskan drivers. They don’t know how to do a four way stop sign. They can’t figure out traffic circles. And during the winter it seems that rolling stops and going through yellow and red lights at the last second is the norm. I couldn’t figure out why this was allowed.
One day while riding in the car with my friend I asked her about this…was it just my imagination or were Alaskans bad drivers? She confirmed it wasn’t my imagination!! She too had noticed it. While driving to our destination we were mulling over this mutual revelation. We concluded that the rolling stops and going through lights was a direct result of the snow and ice. I realized that I too, had experienced the need to roll through a stop sign. If you are on an incline and there is a stop sign, you may not get going again but get stuck on the incline if you come to a complete stop. It was so much easier to get going up to speed if you had never come to a complete stop. If you haven’t driven in the ice and snow you might not understand this. However, may I just say on this issue…trust me??
It is the same with speeding through a yellow or red light. If you are going near or right at the speed limit and the light turns yellow, it does absolutely zero good to apply your brakes firmly to make a quick stop. Even with studded snow tires and traction control, you will just slide through the light and at a slower speed. It is more prudent to go ahead and go through the light. I tried to go slow enough not to have to rely on this feature to keep from spinning out of control. Also, the traffic that is waiting for the light to turn green will not be able to get going right away as they are trying to start on the ice and snow from a complete stop. I have been behind somebody at a light that couldn’t get traction and attain forward movement and only one person got through the light. Just because we have studded snow tires and traction control doesn’t mean everybody does.
Traffic circles were to be avoided at all costs. Though there was a street sign at every circle clearly spelling out what each lane going around the circle could and should do, many people made up the rules as they went. It was at the traffic circles that I saw the most near misses. There is something innately embedded in Alaskans that keeps them from grasping the concept behind navigating traffic circles!!! Perhaps a contributing factor is that Alaska is relatively new. It is the Last Frontier and doesn’t have many roads or highways in the entire state. Many places are accessible only by air and water. There are other places that are accessed with the help of sleds. Yes, mushing is still alive and well here in Alaska!!! Probably the most valuable animal here in Alaska is the Sled Dog. They sell for a very pretty penny!! And the Iditarod Race is the biggest event of the year. The Iditarod Race is a race that starts in Anchorage and goes all the way to Nome, Alaska…somewhere around 1200 miles. It is run in the dead of winter and is probably the most brutal race in the world. It is run with sled dogs!!!
Part of the appeal of Alaska is its challenges and rustic life style. Here in Alaska it’s not about what you wear or what kind of car you drive. It’s about something much deeper and way more meaningful. In fact, when winter temperatures begin to set in I have noticed that you don’t see near as many expensive cars on the road. Everybody gets out the old rusted truck and puts up their trendy and expensive vehicle. The conditions here don’t really lend themselves to class distinction. It doesn’t matter where you live or what you drive when the volcano is erupting or when the temperature drops to 38 below zero. No amount of money can stop the volcano or the cold. People here are keenly aware of this and there is a spirit of cooperation and helping one another. It is the Alaskan Spirit!!