Combat Driving – Alaska Style

As termination dust creeps down the mountains, I have to once again ponder that most puzzling of all Anchorage questions…What is it about drivers here that causes them to think that each new snowfall may finally be THAT snowfall. You know, the one where the snow is sticky instead of slick so they can speed up, slam on the breaks, take curves on two wheels and tailgate so closely they could reach out and change your radio channel for you, without any danger.

As each winter begins, drivers seemingly have to learn to drive in snowy, icy conditions all over again. We seem to assume that every snowstorm is the last that will ever fall here so we don’t have to remember any of the lessons we learned about driving with snow on the roads.

Anchorage driving can be very scary. If I follow what I learned in driving class lo those many years ago on how much space to leave between moving cars, there is inevitably some bozo who takes that as an invitation to use that space to cut in front of me, causing me to suddenly be able to read the brand of coat he’s wearing.

There are mornings after a snowfall where our roads look like a picture from a bombed out Libyan highway because of the number of vehicles strewn all over the embankments. Since not everyone puts snow tires on thirty seconds after they become legal, there is every chance that many commuters will not have them on. Apparently, we can’t expect some Anchorage drivers to think this might be a reason to drive a tad more slowly. I mean, assuming that once the snow has fallen for the first time in a season we are all realize it’s probably going to happen at least a few more times before spring, wouldn’t you think that we would understand the need for caution in the future?

Every spring, Anchorage seems to have one last mighty snowfall – the one I view as God’s way of reminding us She’ll be back. This snow inevitably melts with some immediacy causing wet, flooded roads – roads with puddles and potholes that swallow up bicycles and small children. Is there really anything more fun than the driver whose car hits the puddle without even attempting to slow down a bit, thereby causing Niagra Falls to come cascading down your windshield, blocking you from seeing anything other than your rapidly approaching demise?

My mother told me two things when I got my driver’s license. One was that when I had my little sister in the car with me I was traveling with precious cargo and had better be very, very careful.  The other was that I had, in essence, bought the right hand lane of the road. In her world, the left hand lane was for everyone else. She defined everyone else as all those crazy drivers who thought they had to get somewhere so fast that they needed to go the speed limit. But in the right hand lane, I could go as slow as the law allowed, and sometimes even slower, and no one was permitted to bother me.

That rule held up just fine until I got to Alaska where I found out that the right lane was where speeders went to get around the speeder in the left lane who wasn’t going enough over the speed limit to satisfy them. On some icy days, I feel like asking permission to just drive on the shoulder so I can avoid the killing fields.

I realize I have become the epitome of the little old lady driving down the highway with her turn signal blinking for miles for no apparent reason. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to be able to drive with some modicum of safety from others who feel the speed limit is merely a suggestion and, in the face of slippery road conditions, a challenge to see how fast they can go before flipping over four times and causing the kind of pileup that makes me even later for my latte.

So I’d like the Assembly to consider adding a lane for those of us who do not feel that getting home ten minutes sooner is worth death and/or dismemberment. Thank you.