Surviving Alaska: 10 Laws You Need To Know Before Driving To Alaska

Surviving Alaska: 10 Laws You Need To Know Before Driving To Alaska

It’s a busy time of year in Alaska and everyone is gearing up for summer!  Some of you might have already hit the road.  Fortunately, we had a mild winter so the roads are clear and easy to travel.  Speaking of roads, Alaska has a few unique laws you should know about.

Photo Courtesy of NASA.
Photo Courtesy of NASA.

One of the many great things about Alaska is the freedom allowed to us by our state constitution and visitors to Alaska can share in those freedoms.

Things you CAN & CAN’T DO in Alaska!

  • Guns:  It is legal to carry and even drive with loaded and concealed firearms in Alaska!  Unless you hold a special permit, you can’t do this in most states.  If you are driving through Canada you will not be able to carry a pistol, but with a little paperwork hunting rifles and shotguns are permitted through Canada.  If you happen to get pulled over or approached by a State Trooper or local Police Officer, keep your hands exposed and make sure the first words out of your mouth are “Hello, I am carrying a loaded gun” and proceed to tell them where it is located.  They assume everyone they encounter is packing heat and one of their first questions is usually “Are you carrying a gun?”
    We usually carry guns on our travels, but we do not feel the need to pack heat while running errands in Anchorage.
    We usually carry guns on our travels, but we do not feel the need to pack heat while running errands in Anchorage.  On the other hand maybe we should…

     

  • Texting and Driving:  Like most states, we have laws prohibiting texting while driving.  The wording of the law actually bans the use of screened devices while driving.  This is interesting because you are still allowed to use your hands to talk on the phone, but since most people have smartphones with screens, the act of dialing / looking up a number while driving is illegal.  Whatever you do please drive safely and use good judgement.
    • We text and drive, but not in the normal sense.  There are many times when one of us is driving the Seward Highway alone.  The person driving the highway will send the other (who is at home) a quick text letting them know where they are.  This is very helpful and reassuring in the event of accidents and in the winter when road conditions are a factor.
      We think there is nothing wrong with some safety updates.
      We think there is nothing wrong with safety updates.

       

  • Transporting Cannabis:  In Alaska, you can legally drive down the road with a three-foot bong in the passenger seat and a one ounce bag of cannabis on the dash.  It sounds crazy, but Alaska is one of the newest states legalizing the consumption, possession, and transportation of cannabis.  It is still illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.
    Photo of Cheech and Chong in "Up In Smoke"
    Cheech and Chong, “Up In Smoke”

     

  • Daytime Headlights:  This one is not too unusual, there are certain stretches of road that require you to drive with your headlights on at all times.  The popular Seward Highway is one of these roads.  Even when it is not required, we drive with our headlights on.
    Headlights on for safety.
    Headlights on for safety.

     

  • Highway Camping:  As long as you are not in a city or town, it is legal to pull over and camp for the night.  We are rather fond of camping in the hundreds of gravel pits along the highways.  When we decide to RV across the Lower 48, one of the harder things to get used to will be having to look for approved places to sleep for the night.
    There is free camping everywhere in Alaska.
    There is free camping everywhere in Alaska.

     

  • Holding Up Traffic:  In Alaska, if you are holding up five or more vehicles you are breaking the law.  This applies to everyone despite what they are driving, so utilize the endless opportunities to pull over and let people pass.  Alaska has theREDDI program (Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately) and you will be called into the troopers for holding up traffic.  Failing to let vehicles pass causes reckless passing, which kills people.
    Someone holding up traffic.
    Someone holding up traffic.

     

  • Riding in a Moving Trailer:  This should fall under the common sense category, but you can’t have people in a mobile trailer while driving in Anchorage.  I’m pretty sure the state has a similar law so don’t try this on the open highways either.
  • Dogs in Trucks:  Your dog is not allowed to ride in the bed of your truck.  Aside from the obvious concerns of the dog getting ejected from the bed I think winter weather is another factor for this law.
    Make sure your dog is inside the cab of your truck.
    Make sure your dog is inside the cab of your truck.

     

  • Dogs in Parked Vehicles:  Many states are adopting laws prohibiting leaving your dog in your car while you are away, not Alaska.  Alaskans love taking their dogs for rides.  There are a handful of hot days every year where it might not be safe for your dog to stay in the car while you are away, use your best judgement.  If you are leaving your dog in the RV on a hot day be sure to open the roof vents and keep the fans running.
  • Don’t Wake a Sleeping Bear:  This is another law that sounds like common sense.  It is illegal to wake up a sleeping bear just to take a picture.  On the other hand, if it is hunting season you can legally shoot a sleeping bear.
    Source unknown, but still a great picture!
    Source unknown, but still a great picture!

    Bonus Information:  In Alaska, you have the right to turn your picnic bench into a boat, but if you do it better be a legal boat with life vests and other safety devices.

    Photo courtesy of ADN.com
    Photo courtesy of ADN.com

I hope this helps you stay on the right side of the law while traveling around Alaska.

Safe Travels!

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