Surviving Alaska: Rules of the Road

Surviving Alaska: Rules of the Road

For the sake of discussion I’m using the Seward Highway as an example.  It’s one of the most beautiful and more dangerous highways in the country (per capita).  It’s difficult to find someone living south of Girdwood that hasn’t been personally touched by an accident on the Seward Highway.  Being a sensitive subject, I’ll try to keep this post informative instead of a rant.

Photo Courtesy of ADN.  Traffic backed up for miles from an accident on Turnagain Arm.
Photo Courtesy of ADN. Traffic backed up for miles from an accident on Turnagain Arm.

Who’s responsible for a head on collision, the person recklessly passing or the person driving slow refusing to pull over with a line of 17 vehicles behind them?  Those 17 vehicles start looking like a Nascar race, going three wide passing on blind turns.

Alaskans are just as guilty as tourists when it comes to driving slow (or what some may perceive as slow) and not pulling over.  Countless times I’ve witnessed an Alaskan driving overloaded truck that’s hardly road worthy being oblivious to the world with 20+ vehicles behind them.

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I was stuck behind this old truck refusing to pull over for 20 miles, it took 4 passing lanes for me to finally get around him. He should have just pulled completely over.
View from my door mirror.  This guy was seriously holding up traffic.
View from my door mirror. This guy was seriously holding up traffic.

Equally as often I see rental motorhomes swerving down the highway going 35 mph with vehicles stacked up behind them.  I can only guess these drivers just left Anchorage and are awestruck by the overwhelming beauty of the land.

In Alaska it’s illegal to hold up 5 or more vehicles.  The point I’m trying to make is to please look in your mirrors and see if you’re holding up traffic.  The person who passes recklessly and the person refusing to pull over are equally to blame for accidents.

Tips for surviving Alaska’s highways.

  • Wear your seat belt!
  • Drive with your headlights on.
  • If you’re driving slow and holding up traffic, pull over.
  • Don’t pass on blind turns.
  • Don’t text and drive, use hands free devices.
  • Keep your head on a swivel, drive defensively.
  • If you want to look at the scenery, just pull over.
  • Make sure your tires are in good condition.
  • Find a Fullback!  I always like having someone in front of me going down the Seward Highway.  If an oncoming vehicle passes on a blind turn the fullback takes the brunt of the impact.  It’s nothing personal, just survival.
  • If an oncoming vehicle flashes their lights at you this could mean there’s a trooper ahead or there’s wildlife in the road, such as a moose or porcupine.
  • If a moose impact is immanent, use that split second to exercise good judgement.  Moose are large and impacts are dangerous; a head on with another vehicle or rolling your vehicle in a ditch could be more dangerous.

Safe travels!

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