By Sgt. Charles Inderrieden
Alaska State Troopers
Ten days from today will be the winter solstice. Dec. 21 at 7:49 p.m. will mark the shortest day of the year at 3 hours, 41 minutes of daylight in Fairbanks. The bright side of this point is Fairbanks will gain daylight after that until the summer solstice.
What I would like to discuss today is the fact that our days are significantly shorter and visibility in the winter here is very limited, especially when driving. Like other countries in northern regions such as Canada, Finland and Norway, we have very good reasons to drive with our headlights on at all times during the winter months. In some of these countries, drivers are required to have their vehicle lights on at all times to increase visibility.
I remember one time talking with a Greyhound bus driver back in the 1970s. He told me that Greyhound found they reduced crashes by driving with the headlights on at all times. This was in the 1970s before major studies were conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in 2004, which showed driving with headlights on at all times of the year reduced crashes 5 percent to 15 percent.
Here in Alaska, there are traffic safety corridors that require full-time use of headlights even during the summer. In Fairbanks during the winter, it is just common sense; however, I have seen a lot of drivers who are not using headlights while it is dark or who drive with only the parking lights illuminated. Alaska Administrative Code (AAC), 13 AAC 04.010 tells us when lights are required:
(a) Every vehicle traveling on a highway or other vehicular way or area within the state must illuminate lights
(1) between one half hour after sunset and one half hour before sunrise; or
(2) at any other time when, because of insufficient light or other atmospheric conditions, persons or vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet.
(b) Stoplights, turn signals, and other signaling devices must be illuminated as required by this chapter.
(c) Every vehicle traveling on a highway or vehicular way or area must illuminate lights when traveling on any roadway that is posted with signs requiring the use of headlights.
As our days get shorter you can simply see, with the exception of a short time frame, that you are required by law to drive with your headlights on at all times.
During the winter, we have long shadows that hide dark cars and blinding sun right on the horizon. Our vehicles are covered with snow or frost, causing our vehicles to appear gray and blend in with the background at times. Because of these reasons, I ask that you please drive at all times with your headlights on. Not only is it the smart thing to do but it is the safe thing to do for you, others you care about, and others on the road.
I would also like to take the time to introduce you to a new unit formed in your local “D” detachment here in Fairbanks. It is the Special Projects Unit headed by Sgt. Jess Carson. Sgt. Carson will be assisted by Trooper Malik Jones and Trooper Andrew Gault.
Their responsibility will be to focus on assisting patrol troopers with property crimes, public education such as distracted-driving classes, and additional assistance at high-profile special events.
Remember, do not drive impaired and always show respect.
Please send your questions with the subject line “Ask a Trooper” to Charles.email@example.com or to the Daily News-Miner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sgt. Charles Inderrieden, of the Fairbanks Post, D Detachment, is judicial services supervisor with the Alaska State Troopers.