According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration‘s latest traffic accident statistics, nationally 21,132 people died in crashes in 2013, and more than 2.05 million were injured. However, you don’t need statistics or numbers to know that driving in Alaska is dangerous, no matter how safe of a driver you are. Even the safest drivers on the road today have to contend with drunk drivers, moose, speeders, overworked truck drivers, and teenagers using their smartphone instead of paying attention to the road.
Nowhere are these risks more prevalent than when you’re driving on a highway in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Transportation estimates that one person dies on an Alaskan highway every 5.1 days. In 2011, the last year data was available, 12.5% of all crashes in the state took place on the Sterling, Seward, Glenn, Parks, Richardson, Alaska and Tok Cutoff Highways. Even though only 12.5% of crashes occur there, these highways account for 30.6% of fatal traffic accidents in the state. Not only that, but they account for 35% of moose-related crashes and 9.5% of crashes involving an intoxicated driver.
Parks Highway contains some of the most beautiful views you’ll find on any major roadway in Alaska. As the main artery between Fairbanks and Anchorage, this road one of the most important routes in the state, which is also what makes it so dangerous. Since 1971, The George Parks Highway (commonly referred to as Parks Highway) stretches north from Anchorage to Fairbanks, while also connecting Wasilla, Trapper Creek, Cantwell, Denali National Park and Preserve, and various other towns along the way. In good weather, you can see Mount McKinley from the road, which covers 362 miles between Fairbanks and Anchorage.
All motorists, pedestrians, truck drivers, and bicyclists are expected to use a reasonable amount of care on Alaska’s road. The Alaska personal injury attorneys at Ringstad Law Office, P.C. are here to help when you or a loved one is injured in an accident.
Recent Injury Accidents on Parks Highway
Rollovers, Moose Collisions, and No-Passing Zones
With the high number of commercial truck drivers, the higher speeds, the number of moose and other animals in the area, and distracted or drunk drivers, Parks Highway is more dangerous than most. Rollover accidents are especially frequent. Here are just some of the fatal and injury crashes that have occurred in the last 12 months alone:
August 13, 2015: A two vehicle collision near milepost 315 occurred as a pickup truck attempted to pass a slow-moving vehicle in a no-passing zone. One passenger in the truck was injured.
August 23, 2015: A vehicle/moose collision near Trapper Creek resulted in four people being transported to the hospital. The moose went through the windshield, and a passenger was airlifted to the hospital.
September 6, 2015: A single vehicle rollover near mile 81 caused serious injuries to the driver and two passengers. After losing control, a northbound vehicle left the highway, went into a ditch, hit a culvert, and went airborne before coming to a stop. Three people were taken to Mat-Su Regional Hospital for emergency treatment.
October 16, 2015: A multiple vehicle accident around milepost 252.5 resulted in five serious but not life threatening injuries. A semi-truck with double trailers jack-knifed to avoid striking a disabled vehicle blocking traffic. The truck avoided the initial collision but further blocked the northbound lanes, which caused a multi-vehicle pileup.
November 2, 2015: A northbound semi-truck lost control on a curve, striking a southbound commercial truck. Both drivers were injured in the collision.
November 3, 2015: A jack-knifed semi-truck lost control when another driver suddenly pulled onto the highway. The semi-truck struck a pickup truck, seriously injuring the truck driver and a passenger.
December 1, 2015: Three people were killed in a two vehicle crash around the intersection of Parks Highway and S. Rainbow Street in Wasilla. A northbound vehicle crossed into the southbound lanes and crashed into a van, which caught fire. The driver of the northbound vehicle died, and Alaska State Troopers say they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Two passengers in the van were also killed.
December 20, 2015: A speeding driver rolled over while driving around a curve near Cantwell. The vehicle blocked the northbound lanes of Parks Highway, and the driver was cited for speeding.
December 30, 2015: Two people were injured in a moose collision near Trapper Creek. The driver was taken to the hospital by ambulance, while a passenger was airlifted for emergency medical care.
April 28, 2016: A tractor trailer and box van collided near milepost 194, resulting in the box fan catching fire. State troopers reported the van driver as deceased.
How to Stay Safe While Navigating Parks Highway
Some common hazards are problems shared by drivers everywhere, but Alaska drivers also have to avoid unique obstacles like all-terrain vehicles and moose. Depending on where the crash occurs, it is often necessary to airlift injured passengers and drivers for emergency medical care.
So what can you do to avoid traffic crashes on Parks Highway?
Return to the basics. There are certain pieces of traffic advice that everyone knows, but people still die every year because these basic rules were ignored. For instance, every driver knows that a seatbelt can save your life in an accident, but every year Alaskans die because they didn’t buckle up. Don’t forget about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Drunk drivers killed more than 10,000 people in 2012 and cost the country $37 billion, according to the NHTSA. That’s nearly half the number of people who die in traffic accidents every year. If you get behind the wheel while intoxicated, not only could you be facing serious criminal charges, but victims often hire personal injury attorneys to file civil lawsuits against drunk drivers as well.
Slow down! While many young drivers are taught by their parents to go the speed of traffic, people too often forget that speed limits are meant for ideal driving conditions. If it is rainy, icy, or foggy outside, slow down. Speeding doesn’t actually increase your chances of being on time, only of getting in a car crash along the way.
Watch for wildlife. While no one can protect you from an act of God, remember that moose and other animals are more likely to be on the road during fall, night, months of decreased daylight hours, and in rural regions where wildlife is more common.
Protect yourself from bad drivers. While there’s nothing you can do to help other drivers make better decisions, do everything that you can to ensure you react quickly to hazards on the road. Not only does this mean leaving yourself plenty of stopping distance and regularly checking mirrors and the road in front of you, it also means keeping your tires, brakes, and car in top condition.
Put away the cellphone. Distracted driving can be just as deadly as drunk driving. In 2012, 3,300 people died in distracted driving accidents, and another 421,000 were injured.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed by a distracted, reckless, drunk, careless, or speeding driver, then it’s important to explore all of your legal options. The Alaska personal injury attorneys at Ringstad Law Office, P.C. will listen carefully to understand your situation, then help you decide the best course of action. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation and ask about our Fairbanks car crash lawyers.