There’s a Facebook meme out there in cyberspace imposing a battle scene from Star Wars on a photo of Glenn Highway traffic.
Vehicles are overturned in the middle ditch and off to the sides. They are on fire. About the only thing missing from a complete depiction of a full-on road rage scene are drivers with guns pointing out the windows.
Not that myself or the ECHO News is encouraging that sort of behavior.
Yet, it seems this FB meme seems to circulate through social media heavily after another major snowfall as coffee shop talk once again turns to just how much everyone seems to forget how to drive in our Alaska winter weather. It’s a funny meme to be sure. For me, it elicits amusement that is all too fueled by opting to laugh rather than get angry regarding past driving experiences out on that highway that is basically our only way to get anywhere. It does give us a reason to chuckle, but when the reality of driving the Glenn Highway is right in front of our steering wheel, just how accurate is that depiction as we try to stay clear of the danger that lurks on our only main highway is no laughing matter. This meme seems to succinctly depict the frustration each of us experiences to one degree or another regarding our beloved Glenn Highway and the not-so-cherished – dare I write – idiots whose displayed driving and judgment skills couldn’t be helped even if they were sent back for a driving course.
Unfortunately, that meme’s depiction just is not too far off.
In the past couple weeks – especially after the snow dumps we’ve had – I hear a lot of complaints regarding poor driving on the highway. I’ve heard a couple harrowing stories of folks being tailgated so closely that the car behind could easily give the car in front a suppository. That might sound funny, but it is also damn scary at 65 miles per hour when one also adds the fact that these drivers getting right on one’s back end also tend to dart in and out of lanes to the point that it becomes a guessing game trying to figure out how to position one’s self away from them.
The last big snow dump on Fri., Feb. 24 proved again just how crazy and yes, vulnerable, the situation on the Glenn Highway is. A relatively minor – not trying to downgrade the stress and trauma for those involved by labeling it as “minor” – traffic accident somewhere near the S. Birchwood exit backed the outbound traffic up well past the military complex. Facebook was full of “I am going to be late” comments and “ugh, how long will be we here,” laments and “get off the New and get on the Old Glenn as soon as you can” advice.
The Old Glenn in Eagle River was so jammed it looked like the Daytona 500 gone bad.
The scene, however, turned into a fantastic photo opportunity for Dan Shepard and myself. Not that those of us in the news business wish for these events to occur, but we certainly will take advantage of them when we can.
Poke fun as we may, driving on the Glenn and the other main highways – the Seward, the Parks – has become a travel at our own risk venture.
As I finished this satire off early Monday morning, the Anchorage Police Department sent out a Nixle warning drivers on the Seward of a reckless driver going northbound in the southbound lanes of the New Seward Highway near the O’Malley exit. Yes, that is nowhere near our lovely little hamlet of Chugiak-Eagle River. But that sort of behavior could be just as close as getting out in traffic on our stretch of the New Glenn.
For me, it has become more apparent now that I am not driving an SUV. Good grief, do I miss that Jeep and its four-wheel drive sometimes. Admittedly, it made me feel somewhat invincible behind the wheel. So, to a certain extent, I can identify with these yahoos in big pick-up trucks that drive as if the road is theirs and theirs alone. It’s like they view the other traffic as obstacles to get around instead of fellow travelers on the road. It’s almost like playing one of those car-racing video games in which the only penalty for taking out another driver is a loss of points and not a loss of life.
The APD recently posted a well-worded warning on the Municipality of Anchorage’s website warning people about fender-benders and tailgating. It spells out that tailgating is indeed considered an aggressive driving behavior. It references at least one case in which this behavior resulted in the loss of life. It talks about this mystical thing I rarely see on the Glenn Highway anymore: It’s called space between vehicles.
Remember the module from driver’s education regarding braking distance?
I join the police in reminding all of us about that basic tenant of operating a motor vehicle. It takes space to make a vehicle stop before ramming into someone else. Duh.
Numbers aren’t my strong suit, but I am told that when driving 65 miles-per-hour, it takes 195 feet minimum for most vehicles to stop. Yes, it is hard to measure that distance when driving. So, let’s try a visual: I know football season is over, but most of us can estimate that 10 yards our favorite team needs to make a first down: One yard is 3 feet so ten yards is 30 feet, right? So 6 first downs or 180 yards is pretty close to the amount of space one ought to leave between vehicles. That’s a whole lot more space than I have ever seen as a driver on the Glenn. Yep, as of now, good luck seeing that out on the Glenn Highway on a regular basis.
The Anchorage Municipal Code 9.16.100, “Following Too Close,” states that a driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to the speed of such vehicle, the traffic and the conditions of the street.
Frankly, I am not trying to lecture. I am just telling you that I really do not want to write a story about one of my readers being killed on the Glenn due to the reckless driving.