Alaska – the final frontier of the United States. With its towering mountains, vast wilderness, and breathtaking scenery, there are plenty of reasons why a road trip to some of the state’s landmarks is a huge draw for tourists from around the country.
When preparing for this type of travel, drivers will usually think of the weather-related situations they could encounter – they’ll buy all-weather tires, bring snow chains, pack extra food and clothing, and include emergency kits in their cars should they find themselves stranded. However, there is one huge factor to driving Alaskan roads that many drivers forget to consider: animals. Large animals…and lots of them.
From moose to bears to deer, the forests and mountains within Alaska are teeming with wildlife big and small that could potentially cause hazards to you and your travel companions. Deer might dart out in front of your car, or a large moose in the road may be obscured by darkness until a second too late. Bears have been known to peel an entire door off of a vehicle just to get to food that may be inside. And for an unsuspecting traveler, these brushes with Alaska’s most familiar natives could prove quite terrifying, and even fatal.
The Alaska Department of Administration’s driver manual clearly states some important provisions to remember when driving in a state known for its wilderness and wildlife. Some of their tips include:
- Remember that deer and moose have a tendency to bolt suddenly, so always slow down when approaching them – even if they are on the side of the road.
- Use your high beams when driving at night.
- Animals such as moose and deer are known to travel in groups. If you see one, chances are there’s another nearby! Driver with caution and be on the lookout.
- If an animal jumps in front of your car, brake and prepare for impact. DO NOT SWERVE. You could potentially hit another car or object if you swerve, or spin out of control. It’s better to deal with the damage caused by a head-on collision than to flip your vehicle and risk much worse.
- Never leave your car unattended, especially if there is food inside. This could attract bears to your vehicle.
- If a bear does approach your vehicle while you are outside of it, maintain a safe distance, and do not make sudden movements. Keep as far away as possible until the bear is gone. You may have a mutilated car, but at least everyone will be safe and sound.
- If a bear approaches your vehicle while you are inside, drive away immediately!
A good way to prepare for your road trip through Alaska is to take a driver safety refresher course. An Alaska defensive driving course covers topics such as hazard prevention, driving in difficult road conditions, and proper vehicle preparation for the type of terrain you will find yourself upon. You’ll also learn helpful defensive driving techniques to use in the event that an animal DOES cross your path – your reaction times will be quicker and smoother. You can never be too prepared for a trip through the wild!