8 Winter Driving Tips for Fairbanks Visitors!

My name is Aurora Abe and you can trust me with guiding you through your Alaskan Vacation in Fairbanks!  In addition to wearing a seat belt and traveling with a cell phone, I have gathered eight of the best sourdough tips to safely navigate winter driving in Fairbanks.   No doubt, our uniquely cold temperatures call for some unique precautions…

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1. Slow Down

Winter roads in Fairbanks can be covered in ice and snow.  Slow down and increase your following distance from the car in front of you.

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2. Keep Your Headlights On All the Time

Make sure every other driver on the road can see you, especially if you’re in a rental car that’s a standard white or silver.

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3. Check Cross Traffic at Intersections

If you’re the first driver at an intersection, or even the second or third, take a few seconds to confirm that cross traffic is stopped before you enter the intersection on a green light.   People trying to beat a yellow light are everywhere, and Fairbanks is no exception.  Some are more successful than others.  Or, you can have a driver who is sliding through the intersection, unable to stop.   Which brings me to the next point…

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4. Beware Intersection Approaches

On major streets, intersection approaches tend to be the slickest part of the road since warm cars sit there and idle.  Keep that in mind as you’re coming to a yellow light at an intersection.

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5. Take the Cold Seriously

It can take less than ten minutes for hypothermia to set in at -30 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re not adequately dressed.  Have cold weather gear on or available inside your car.  In case of emergency, put it on before you leave the warmth of your car.  A good rule of thumb is to be able to dress to walk a mile for help.  If your trip includes driving more than a few miles out of town (i.e., up the Dalton Highway or Chena Hot Spring Road) for Northern Lights viewing, it would be worth it to pack, or purchase, a sleeping bag per passenger.  You may need to keep warm for a long period of time until help arrives

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6. Bring Sunglasses

That may sound counter-intuitive for a place that can have less than six hours of daylight. However, in the winter the sun hovers around the southern horizon, and on clear days can be blinding if you’re heading that direction.  It can be too low to be blocked by the visors in your car.  A good pair of sunglasses can help with southbound visibility.

Of course, when in Alaska– do as us Alaskans do and be sure to LOOK COOL!

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7. Plug It In

That plug hanging out the front of your car is not there because you’ve rented an electric car.  Cars in Fairbanks come equipped with an electric battery blanket, or trickle charger, and heating pads under the oil pan and transmission to keep them from freezing at cold temperatures.  The Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Quality Division requests drivers plug in the cars at temperatures lower than +20 degrees Fahrenheit to protect air quality.  Check with your rental car agent to see if they supply an extension cord for your car.  Parking lots where cars are left for hours, such as your hotel, are usually equipped with headbolt outlet posts.  Connect the plug hanging from the front of your car to the headbolt outlet post with a sufficiently rated extension cord.

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8. Keep Your Eye on Your Gas Gauge

It’s a rule of thumb in Fairbanks to keep your tank at half full during the winter.   Repeatedly warming up a car can eat into your reserve, so be sure to check your gas gauge each time you get in.

As you know, the safety of our guests here in the Fairbanks is my top concern!  Let’s all be have fun– but let’s also be safe about it.  I am glad that you are enjoying Fairbanks and Interior Alaska with us!  You will have a great time here– you can trust me on that!

-Aurora Abe

Check out more safety articles written by me HERE