DRIVING IN FOG:
FOG NOT ONLY DECREASES YOUR ABILITY TO SEE FAR AHEAD, IT REDUCES YOUR DEPTH PERCEPTION, MAKING IT EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SPEED.
These basic safety practices will help drivers avoid the most common problems associated with driving in the fog.
1. Decrease your speed. Alaska law requires drivers to slow down when visibility is reduced. The MAXIMUM SPEED or "SPEED LIMIT" signs are regulatory signs that state the most speed that may legally be used in optimum conditions: Dry roads and good visibility.
Additionally, the law requires all drivers to be able to stop for anything within their line of sight.
Speed requires long distance line of sight and a wide field of view.
2. Drive with your headlights and tail lights ON! While this is a good idea at all times to help other roadway users see you from a greater distance, it is required by law and critical to your safety.
3. Increase your following distance from 4 seconds to 6 or more seconds. Even experienced drivers tend to bunch up in the fog due to limited distance vision and often feel safer because they can see the vehicle ahead.
But this is a false sense of security! Why? Because you can't see far enough ahead of the vehicle you are following. Imagine a moose stepping onto the highway ahead of the vehicle you are following on a 55mph road. In good daylight, this would be visible to you and you could respond even before the driver in front begins braking.
In the fog, such an event will surprise drivers. And not having enough room to brake will result in sudden swerving, at 55 mph!!! This is why we see so many multi-vehicle pile ups in the fog on high speed roadways.
Sad, but completely preventable!
4. If you must drive very slow (due to near white out conditions), turn on your hazard lights and stay toward the right shoulder as much as possible. If it is too difficult to even drive 20mph on a 55mph or 65mph highway, should you really be on that highway? If possible, stay on lower speed roads to avoid a careless speeder suddenly overtaking you in the fog.
WINTER DRIVING TIPS:
BEING PREPARED FOR ADVERSE CONDITIONS STARTS WITH INSPECTING YOUR VEHICLE AND MAKING SURE IT IS READY FOR WINTER.
HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL HINTS TO MAKE WINTER DRIVING EASIER.
1. TIRES - Use winter tires with good tread (6/32" or more), check tire pressure regularly. Your tires can lose 1 to 2 psi for every 10F drop in temperature!
2. BRAKES - Do they squeal or pull to one side every time you brake? Time to see a mechanic! Your safety, and other's safety depends on you staying in control. This starts with good stopping capability.
3. FLUIDS - Be sure to have your coolant rated for winter conditions, make sure you have routine oil changes, keep brake fluid topped off as well as power steering fluid (if you have hydraulic power steering fluid).
4. BATTERY - Cold kills batteries, and many batteries don't perform well after several years of hard, Alaskan conditions. Have a battery shop check your battery, clean the terminals, tighten connections and the battery hold down strap. If your battery is more than 5 years old, consider replacing it with a new battery and possibly adding a "battery blanket" to prevent trouble in sub zero temperatures.
5. WINDOWS - Keep them clean and clear of snow, ice, dust and dirt! If you can't see, you can't drive. We like to use products like RAIN-EX to clean the windows prior to bad weather. This helps water bead up and run off the windows. Dust on the inside of your windshield can create glare, blinding the driver. Of course, a good quality ice scraper and brush are essential equipment for clearing snow and ice from the car and windows. Be sure to clean off all lights and license plates as well. Carefully clean wiper blades, the rubber blades can be easily damaged when scraping ice from the windshield.
6. LIGHTS - If you can't see, or if people can't see you, a crash can happen so much more easily! Inspect bulbs every week, and carry spares in your vehicle. Some bulbs may require some tools to change them, so a tool kit (basic) may be necessary.
1. BREAKDOWN - Do you have jumper cables? Extra fluids? Spare bulbs? A tool kit? Spare tire and jack? Having the tools to fix common breakdowns can allow you to get back on your way with minimal effort.
2. STRANDED - Ever see a driver stuck in the snow? Do you have a tow strap and shovel?
3. COLD WEATHER - These inconveniences will most likely happen in the dark and cold. Do you have a flashlight? How about a headlamp? This keeps your hands free to work. Do you have snow bibs, a parka, winter gloves, snow boots, a winter hat (balaclavas are great!). Hand warmers and foot warmers are a good idea to add to any winter kit.
4. SURVIVAL - If you are traveling out of town, are you ready for an extended wait for rescue? Meals Ready to Eat (MRE's) are a great long term storage food item for any survival kit. Bottled water should be carried. Several candles and weatherproof matches or a lighter are good items, too. If you have food, water, warmth then you have hope. This is critical to keep from making desperate decisions that can lead to more risk. Water is crucial for survival, your brain and organs need water for good function.
5. SIGNALING - Flares, reflective triangles, strobes, etc. Place warning devices at 100 feet, 200 feet and 300 feet behind vehicle. If you are stranded in snow, an LED strobe, kept free of snow, can alert rescuers to your position.
6. COMMUNICATION - Cell phone and charger, a dead cell phone won't do you any good. Pencil and paper, in case you must leave a note in certain circumstances.
1. MINDSET - Nothing compares to a sober mind that appreciates the risks of the road and winter travel. A casual mindset will get any driver into trouble. THINK SAFETY, and you will be well on your way to the next steps in driver preparedness.
2. SOBRIETY - We can no longer regard drinking and drugs as the only driver "sobriety" impairments. Distracted driving and drowsy driving affect every driver to some degree. While most of us will avoid being impaired by alcohol or drugs, do we push ourselves too far when tired? Ever checked your phone screen "just this one time"? Looking away from the road or closing your eyes for just 2 seconds DOUBLES your chance of a crash, particularly a rollover incident when a driver suddenly realizes they are leaving the roadway and quickly steers to correct. This results in a sudden imbalance of the vehicle, causing tires to lose grip and the center of gravity to shift too suddenly. Some of our SKIDCAR videos show just how easy this can happen when a driver "swerves". In fact, we strongly advise against any aggressive swerve maneuvers at speeds above 20mph because of this high rollover risk.
3. TRAINING - We offer many venues to help drivers learn to be safer drivers. From our New Driver classes to our Fleet Safety programs, we have a class for any skill level. Our SKIDCAR program gives drivers the most professional and safest opportunity to learn all about how loss of traction occurs, how to regain control (if possible) and most importantly, how to PREVENT skids while driving at any speed!
NEW SUMMER TRAINING PROGRAM!
PRECISION SKILLS COURSE
This course will help drivers really get comfortable with the many low speed, challenging maneuvers that often frustrate even seasoned drivers.
Drivers will negotiate a "graduated" slalom course, T turn, parallel parking, constant radius turn, acceleration and braking, reversing straight and slalom, blocked lane maneuver and other precision skills that will help them master the low speed world in a very fun and interactive way.
This course will be offered in the same way we conduct our SKIDCAR program: on a closed course under the Range Master's supervision in a dual control vehicle provided by Alaska Safe Driver Academy LLC.
Drivers won't have to worry about traffic or busy parking lots while they get to practice the various maneuvers, and repetition (one of our hallmarks for training) is used to reinforce the students understanding of each section on the course.
Come join us for the most fun you'll ever have in a driving lesson!
Most driving schools in Alaska tend to offer similar training regimens: 8 hours in a classroom, 8 hours in car with an instructor.
But is this the BEST course for you? To make this decision, evaluate your goals, your current experience, and be realistic about what you can really expect to achieve in a limited matter of time.
Most driving schools offer a standard 16 hour course for teens and new drivers. This normally consists of 8 hours classroom time and 8 hours driving with an instructor.
This basic course can definitely help any new driver get a solid understanding of the basics.
It is also an excellent curriculum for the teen who has several months of practice but needs to address the finer points of driving, such as parallel parking, driving in heavy traffic, trip planning and more.
New drivers with little or no experience may need to consider taking additional training to reach their goals. It takes time to learn any new skill. Take a look at any sporting activity. You wouldn't expect to learn how to be a pro at a sport with only 8 hours classroom and 8 hours practicing the sport!
Practice, repetition, and trial and error are essential to how we learn and gain experience and insight.
For very new drivers, the 16 hour course is a great starting point. If the student has good access to supportive family or friends (to practice what they have learned), this may be all they need to get driving with confidence. When the new driver has enough experience to attempt a road exam, it is a good idea to do a 2 hour refresher course with their original instructor. This will help them prepare to go solo.
For new drivers who do not have opportunities to practice, an additional week or two of training will be the better choice. Again, more practice will create better results.
More time with the instructor can be a huge benefit for even a teen with ample practice under their belt. There is only so much that can be covered in the standard 16 hour courses. Consider that where driver training is part of a high school curriculum, teens may have as much as 40 hours of classroom time.
While more classroom time would be beneficial, imagine how much more a new driver can learn with 16 hours or even 24 hours of one-on-one time with a knowledgeable instructor. Preparing new drivers to be aware and capable is very important.
For our students, we offer access to additional time for a reduced rate. Our recommendation is to take the basic 16 hour course and get a good idea of where you are as a driver. If you find that you need more time, or that you would like to learn more than what is taught in the basic program, then an additional week or two is the right choice.
When searching for "SKID COURSES" or "SKID TRAINING", there are a few things you need to know before you choose:
1. Does the instructor or school have legal permission to use the property where they are conducting the training? If they don't, both you and the instructor can face legal consequences, from being trespassed by the property owner and as severe as being sued if property damage occurs.
2. Does the school have insurance on the property being used for the training? Not on the car being used, but ON THE PROPERTY? This is critical, to protect you and your financial situation. If they don't have insurance, you could be held liable in a lawsuit from damages that occur while you are driving.
3. Is the area under the control of the instructor or driving school? Do they take reasonable means to block the access of non-participants in order to protect the student and the public?
4. Is the instructor certified on the subject they are "training" you on? Ask to see their credentials on the methods they are training. This is very serious, as an amateur can teach you very dangerous methods that they think are appropriate, and may seem so under the conditions in the session, but do they really work at higher speeds?
At Alaska Safe Driver Academy, we can proudly answer positively to all of these concerns. In fact, we are the ONLY civilian driving school in Alaska that can answer properly on each of these concerns.
We have permission from Regal Cinemas to use the Totem Theater lot. No other school has this right.
We have insurance naming Regal Cinemas as an additional insured.
We close off the area with almost 500 feet of cones and fencing before doing any SKIDCAR lessons.
Our instructors are certified by SKIDCAR System Inc. - the same agency that certifies Anchorage Police Department and Alaska State Troopers SKIDCAR instructors.
Our SKIDCAR gives us control of the training. We can allow or stop any skid that we need to. In fact, we have 3 safeties to prevent injury or property damage.
SKIDCAR training done at 10mph to 25mph is relevant to skills needed at 30mph to 65mph.
IF A DRIVING SCHOOL CANNOT ANSWER POSITIVELY TO THE FIRST 3 CONCERNS, THEY ARE NOT CONDUCTING LEGAL OR SAFE TRAINING.
IF THEY CANNOT SHOW YOU THEIR METHODS ARE PROVEN AT HIGH SPEEDS (40mph and up), THEN THEIR METHODS ARE NOT SAFE AND CANNOT BE RELIED ON FOR SAFE OUTCOMES WHEN DRIVING AT HIGHER SPEEDS.
Wether you are selecting "winter driving training", "skid recovery", "skid prevention" or "skid control" lessons, you owe it to yourself and others on the road around you to select professional training over those who take shortcuts.
Driving safely is one of the biggest commitments you make in life. It's not a decision to take lightly.
What is "Defensive Driving"? Is it high speed police chase driving? No.
Does it mean dealing with threatening drivers? Maybe.
Defensive Driving is simply Proactive Driving. A Proactive Driver is one who uses superior knowledge to avoid situations that require superior skill.
Some driving classes are billed as "Defensive Driving". Honestly, any class on driving that is approved by the DMV is a "Defensive Driving" class. Some classes are intended for traffic offenders (for point reduction or ticket dismissal). These classes are technically "Driver Improvement" classes as they are intended to help drivers who are experienced.
Our "How To Drive" curriculum and SKIDCAR training are both "Defensive Driving" courses, but are not intended for point reduction or ticket dismissal. The "How To Drive" class is specifically designed for New Drivers. This is why we do not mix our New Driver class with a Driver Improvement class (intended ONLY for experienced drivers as a refresher course).
Learning to scan ahead, improve your view, predict, anticipate, and prevent situations from becoming dangerous, using proper following distances, thinking about managing grip in all conditions at any speed, and adjusting speed to conditions are just a few examples that each of these curriculums teach.
So, in essence, Driver Improvement, How To Drive and SKIDCAR lessons are all "Defensive Driving" classes. However, if you need to take a point reduction or ticket dismissal class, you will need to take a "Driver Improvement" class, often billed as "Defensive Driving".
If you are looking to take Driver Education for insurance reduction, all of these classes may qualify for an insurance discount. You will need to check with your insurance agency, of course. We have had some students report that they received an insurance discount for both our "How To Drive" driver's education course and for the SKIDCAR course. It's definitely worth checking with your agent!
Are SKIDCAR lessons for teens only?
Can anyone take this training?
Is this effective for winter driving?
These are common questions we receive about our SKIDCAR lessons. No, SKIDCAR is not for teen drivers only, most law enforcement agencies in Alaska use SKIDCAR training to prepare their officers for driving on slippery conditions as well as maintaining control of their vehicles at higher speeds.
Can anyone take this training? Yes, if they are qualified to drive and are competent at handling a vehicle (we require our new drivers to complete the driver education and on road training first, but any teen who is competent at driving can take this course). Of course, you must have a valid permit or license to take the training.
Is this effective for winter driving? YES! But it is effective for so much more than just winter driving. There is a very good reason why law enforcement agencies across the United States ( including the military now) use SKIDCAR training.
Of course we teach how skids happen and how to correct them. More importantly, we teach drivers to develop an understanding of how to prevent skids in any most any condition. If there is traction to be had, our students know how to get it!
For those who "teach" drivers about skid control and skid recovery during the winter, our lead instructor has gone the low tech route before and can attest to the absolute inadequacies of those lessons. While an instructor can give you a small taste of acceleration and braking problems in an icy parking lot, they cannot naturally develop a rear wheel skid (we know of some who yank the parking brake while telling the student to swerve suddenly - that is NOT how a rear wheel skid happens naturally at all!), and they cannot really develop a front wheel skid without using far too much speed for the parking lot they are in. Finally, they cannot guarantee your safety, on lookers safety, or even the vehicles safety. With our SKIDCAR, WE CAN. We can develop a rear wheel skid from slight, minor mistakes, we can develop a front wheel skid at low speeds and every time it is attempted.
And above all, we can absolutely guarantee EVERYONES SAFETY.
How is this relevant to high speed driving? Well, imagine you are on the freeway, driving about 65mph, and a gust of wind, a rut in the road, or some other influence causes you to move suddenly, unexpectedly. If you spent time in a parking lot doing donuts, the "skill" you learned won't help here. A very small correction is needed at 65mph. The "donut skills" have taught you to slam things around (the steering, gas or brakes). And that can have very serious consequences!
SKIDCAR training allows drivers to experience the same sensations felt when encountering a loss of traction or stability at high speed, but we are able to do this at a much slower speed (15mph to 25mph). No other training method can make this claim. We can guarantee your safety and we can guarantee that you will learn what you need to know, without the need for snow or high speeds.
It will truly change the way you think about driving, traction, stability and your responsibility as a driver. Our students experience how devastating a distraction can be at high speeds, but they survive the maneuver because of the safety provided by the SKIDCAR.
We are holding lessons every Saturday thru the end of October. Come by and see it for yourself! We would love to say "hi" to you.
One of the most common subjects that comes up in training or talking with students or parents is parallel parking.
People get nervous about it, they find it frustrating, some flat out despise it. However, once a student learns how to parallel park, they often exclaim "that wasn't so hard!".
Of course, they will need to practice it enough to really grasp the concept and work out some common issues. If you do spend time practicing it and keep in mind that it must be performed with the same caution as you would use in busy downtown traffic, you will find it is nothing to fear.
We teach our students how to parallel park between traffic cones first. It is important to choose a location where there won't be any interruptions and plenty of space to for the driver to feel comfortable.
Allow the driver to work through errors, repetition will help them gain insight. Not every space is the exact same size, neither will every car you drive have the same space requirements or turn radius.
For this reason, avoid using "absolutes" that create failure if one tiny thing is off. It is important that the driver be able to adjust to the situation.
I once gave a man a road exam in mini motorhome (a van type). Most people would have been terrified to park that parallel to the road between cars in traffic. He did it under the pressure of a test for his license! And... he passed with flying colors!
The reason? He understood the law and he was well practiced with his vehicle.
One of the saddest things I've encountered as a third-party class D road examiner is the unprepared applicant trying to parallel park for the first time. They try to show skill on a maneuver that they have never performed, EVER.
Please, practice all of the skills needed before signing up for a road exam. And be nice to folks downtown - practice your parking skill with cones FIRST, then try downtown.
Our students are amazed that they are able to not only parallel park with cones, but also downtown in traffic.
Master the basics, repetition is the path to skill. Good luck and best wishes to all of you hoping to pass an upcoming test!
PARALLEL PARKING WITH CONES
ACTUAL STUDENT PARKING DOWNTOWN AFTER PRACTICING BETWEEN CONES
AlaskA Safe Driver Academy LLC