The enemy on the roads is us, according to a report recently released by the state Department of Transportation.
The 154-page ``1998 Alaska Traffic Accidents'' states that human error played the most significant role in traffic accidents. In 81.2 percent of all accidents and 81.9 percent of fatal accidents driver action was a contributing factor, the report said.
The human factors contributing to total traffic accidents were, in descending order, unsafe speed for road conditions, driver inattention and failure to yield.
The good news is that the total number of accidents in three populous boroughs - Anchorage, Kenai, and Juneau - remained constant, with less than 1 percent change.
The bad news is that the proportion of accidents resulting in injury or death increased in three of Alaska's eight most populous boroughs, including Juneau. Increases were 9 percent in Ketchikan, 11 percent in Sitka and 8 percent in Juneau.
The 1998 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled were significantly lower than the rate of 1.89 in 1997 in Alaska. In other words, for the first time in a decade, the state fatality rate matched, rather than exceeded, the national rate.
The top three major human errors contributing to fatal accidents were, in descending order, alcohol use, unsafe speed and driver inattention.
The most dangerous group is drivers male and female ages 16 to 20.
``Younger people do not have the experience that older drivers do,'' said Mary Moran, director of the highway safety office of the state Department of Public Safety. ``Younger people drive down the street and just assume other drivers will get out of the way, and older drivers know that's not so.''
Alcohol-impaired males in all age groups are more likely to be involved in accidents than females.
Accidents tend to peak by numbers and severity in months when road conditions may include ice and snow. A second, lesser, peak occurs during months of fishing, vacation and tourism - June and July.
In terms of day of the week, the worst accidents measured in terms of property damage occur on Fridays. The worst accidents in terms of major injuries occur on Sunday. The worst accidents in terms of fatalities occur on Sunday, followed by Tuesday.
Although one might assume more accidents would happen at night on wet roads, this is not true. The report shows that, although snow and ice contribute to accidents, three to four times as many accidents happen on dry pavement as on wet, and seven times as many during daylight hours as during hours of dark.
``If you exempt Juneau - because most of the time we are driving on wet roads - in the Interior they have a lot more driving time on dry roads. They have half the population in the Anchorage area, and more intersections,'' said Lt. Walt Boman of the Juneau Police Department.
A reasonable conclusion is that the safest time to take a Sunday drive is on Wednesday, from 4 to 5:59 a.m., in the rain, in April. Don't imbibe beforehand, and observe speed limits.
And read by the fire during holidays. Thirty-six percent of all accidents in Alaska occurred over six holiday periods.
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