By Sally Cassano-Archuleta, for the Redoubt Reporter
As the 2012 summer season approaches, we can expect more traffic on Kenai Peninsula highways. Unfortunately, this usually means an increase in accidents and fatalities. It’s best if we accept that there will be slower speeds, more distractions and longer commute times. Please plan ahead. Give yourself more time each day to get from point A to point B and try to preplan your route, as to minimize unnecessary maneuvers.
A well-planned route has four to five maneuvers planned in advance. For example, be in the correct lane well in advance, and don’t be tempted to pass. If you must, please wait until you are in a four-lane section of highway. This way, you can do so traveling in the same direction. Trying to “save” time between our cities, in such close proximity, will only increase your risk and the risk to those around you. Remember that driving is a shared responsibility. Often, when you are passed on a two-lane highway, you both end up at the first traffic light together anyway.
One of the worst traffic violations on the Kenai Peninsula, not to mention the most dangerous, is passing where we shouldn’t. These areas include solid yellow lines and solid white lines. All solid lines are restrictive. Do not drive along the shoulder of the highway before turning right. Do not go around vehicles exiting the highway, whether they are turning left or right.
Single-file driving is single-file driving. Keep your vehicle square, in your lane. Do not create space for others to be tempted to pass illegally. Remember that only bicyclists and pedestrians are allowed across the solid, white line except in cases of emergency, and pulling over in that situation should be preceded by the appropriate signal and hazard lights. Pull over immediately when seeing EMS vehicles with lights flashing. It is illegal to do otherwise.
When rejoining the highway, wait until the EMS vehicle has passed, then pull onto the highway in the same order you exited. Do not pass vehicles that pulled over ahead of you. If you believe the vehicle behind you is not slowing at an appropriate speed, don’t hesitate to put your flashers on and/or tap your brakes in order to get their attention. Areas where this may be helpful are school bus stops, construction areas and police-diverted traffic areas.
Please be aware that, throughout the Kenai Peninsula, there are many areas of the highway that have a shared left turn lane. These lanes are for left turns only. This means a left turn from your direction of traffic, or a left turn from the opposite direction of traffic. You may not use the center lane for merging right, passing or driving forward indefinitely. This seriously increases your risk of a head-on collision.
Please maintain the appropriate following distance of four to five seconds. Wait until the car ahead of you passes an object and begin counting, “One one-thousand, two one-thousand,” etc. If you pass the same object before reaching four or five one-thousands, you are too close.
This brings up tailgating. Driver, you are the one who controls the space in front of you. You cannot control the space to your rear. Only that driver can. Tailgating is annoying and dangerous. If you feel you are being tailgated, look at your speedometer first. Make sure you are not the goofball on the highway ignoring an increase in posted speed limit.
If necessary, adjust your speed to match the posted speed limit. If the tailgater continues, you can signal right and pull over — safely — off the road at the nearest exit. Let the tailgater around you, then rejoin traffic. Once another driver has established him or herself to be unpredictable, stay as far away as possible. If you believe their driving to be an absolute hazard on the road, do not hesitate to make a REDDI call (Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately). Try to have a license plate number, the location of the violation and a description of both the driver and vehicle ready for the dispatcher who takes your call.
Please don’t allow yourself to become impatient or exasperated with the increase in traffic this summer. Although we see wildlife daily here on the Kenai Peninsula, for an out-of-state visitor, seeing a moose can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just think — as an Alaskan, if you were to suddenly see an alligator crossing the road, you might feel compelled to stop and photograph it, as well.
An impatient driver is a dangerous driver. Please do your part to keep our roads safe. Let’s continue to reduce the risk on Alaska highways. This message goes to each and every driver out there, including law enforcement. Let’s be the exception, not the rule; and moreover, a good example.
Sally Cassano-Archuleta is a driving instructor for Manny’s Driver Education.