Alaska Driving Tips
Alaska’s unique combination of stunning scenery and extremes of climate can sometimes combine to create road conditions that are less than ideal. Add to that the chances of seeing wildlife at every turn, local traffic so familiar with the roads that they sometimes drive too fast, and tourist traffic that is so enthralled with the scenery they drive way too slow, and you get a driving experience that is, well, uniquely Alaskan.
Following are a few Alaska driving tips that will not only help you manage your travel van efficiently but will also ensure you become a responsible driver in Alaska.
Wildlife & Weather
- Wildlife: Wildlife can appear anytime and anywhere in Alaska. If you see wildlife while driving, find a safe spot to pull over before taking pictures. The State of Alaska has done a great job of anticipating this occurrence when designing our roads, as there are frequent pullouts along most major roadways.
- Inclement Weather: The weather can change very quickly in Alaska. Heavy wind, heavy rain, and even sometimes snow in shoulder season are all weather events that you may see. Travel at safe speeds for the conditions in front of you.
- Safe following distance: It’s best to maintain a safe following distance while traveling Alaska’s highways, and you’ll avoid most issues. Our vans are probably heavier than the vehicle you are used to driving; they don’t have the same braking agility as a small sedan. A safe following distance also allows for any sudden stops or swerves due to wildlife on the roadways as well as other drivers not following the rules of the road.
- Speed limit: The speed limit in Alaska is 55 miles (88 kilometers) per hour unless otherwise posted. Some highways have 65 miles per hour speed limits, but these can also be safety corridors, areas where fines for any speeding or moving violation are doubled.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get there: Traffic can be heavy during the summer months. Alaska’s road system is limited, and the state’s population more than doubles during this time. This, along with wildlife and scenic vistas, often causes traffic delays. While driving, it is good practice to estimate that you will average 50 miles per hour when on highways. This allows you time to stop intermittently and take photos as well.
- Delaying vehicles: In the state of Alaska, it’s against the law to delay more than 5 vehicles at a time on most highways. If you are traveling along the highway and there is line of traffic behind you more than 5 cars long, you must use a designated pull-out and allow the faster moving vehicles to pass you. You will earn a lot of goodwill from the local traffic if you adhere to this law.
- Headlights: Most highways in Alaska require headlights to be on at all times.
- Parking in Anchorage: Parking while in Anchorage, particularly downtown, requires payment. Street parking is metered and there is an abundance of paid parking lots around town. These lots and meters are monitored constantly. Any parking tickets that are issued during your rental are your responsibility.
Driving under the Influence
- Drinking and Driving: Driving under the influence is a serious offense in Alaska. Penalties for your first offense can be fines in excess of $10,000.00 and loss of your driver’s license. Because of the dangers that already exist on our roadways, the state is diligent in its enforcement of DUI violations.
- Marijuana consumption: Recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Alaska; however, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Penalties are as stiff as an alcohol-related DUI. If you choose to use marijuana while visiting, remember that there is No Smoking of any kind in our vans, and you must not operate the vehicle while under the influence.