If you’re going to drive the mighty Alaska Highway this year or next year, be sure to plan for safe travel!
Yes, the highway is now paved all the way from Dawson Creek, B.C. to Delta Junction (and beyond to Fairbanks, Alaska). Experts warn, though, that it’s still a very remote driving route and there are often areas in less-than-perfect condition that could cause problems. Both the American and Canadian Automobile Associations (AAA and CAA) provide online advice. Here’s a selection of tips we think are relevant if you’re taking on the Alaska Highway.
Three great tips from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
“Last summer, CAA helped 750,000 Canadians from the roadside, the majority of which involved battery problems, tire issues, or people locking their keys in the vehicle. Almost half of those calls were not a simple fix and required the car be towed to a second location for additional assistance.” – Canadian Automobile Association
1. Get your vehicle inspected
In our own words, this one’s a no-brainer. Go and get your vehicle looked at by professionals to ensure it’s ready for your epic road trip. Let them tell you what they need to look at, but make sure they change your oil, check all other fluid levels, test your battery, examine your brakes and pressure-balance your tires. Take your vehicle in for an inspection a few weeks before your trip. Have the oil changed, fluid levels checked, battery tested, and tires inspected. This will ensure safety on the highway that was once marked with signs saying “Prepare to meet thy maker!” Those signs aren’t there anymore, thanks to some serious grading and paving, but if the safety benefits aren’t enough incentive to get to the garage, think of the money you’ll save avoiding tows and emergency mechanical work out in one of the world’s last great wilderness frontiers.
2. Prepare an emergency supplies kit
Who knows what you’ll need in an emergency situation on the Alaska Highway, right? Right. So, follow CAA’s suggestions and, if you’re asking us, pack any and all emergency supplies you already have and then go online to find recommendations for more. CAA says a flashlight with extra batteries is a good idea, along with “a first-aid kit, water and non-perishable foods, a basic toolkit with a tire pressure gauge and wrench, windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, and emergency flares or reflectors.” Also, ensure documents are up-to-date. This will reduce stress (also sometimes referred to as panic) during emergency situations when you could also be required to identify yourself to authorities. Make sure your driver’s license, plate validation stickers, insurance and roadside assistance memberships are absolutely up-to-date.
Sample emergency “starter” kit
- First Aid information
- Animal safety information
- Sting relief pads, lotions
- Antiseptic towelettes
- Bandages, steri-strips
- Sterile gauze pad
- Adhesive tape
- Booster cables
- Emergency road signs
- Air compressor
- Tire gauge
- Aluminum flashlight
- Matches, lighter, flares
- Sunscreen & bug spray
- Cotton gloves
- Emergency poncho
- Stainless steel tool (pliers, knife)
- Duct tape
- Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
- Fleece set
- Shop cloths
- Bungee cords
- Cable ties
- Bear bells, air horn
- Axe or hatchet
- Emergency food (non-perishable)
3. Drive without distractions… and never when you’re drowsy
Avoid distracted driving. Plain and simple. Here’s how: Designate one of your passengers as the navigator/communicator (they, not you, must answer all phone calls and deal with all text messages and social media activity). We don’t recommend driving the Alaska Highway alone, but if you really must, tell the folks back home where you’re going and not to phone or text you during certain times (when you expect to be on the road). To avoid drowsiness when driving, don’t drink alcohol before setting off — or when you’re behind the wheel — and steer clear of most drugs, including many prescription medications. Plan your journey with plenty of time for sleep between long hauls on the highway.
American Automobile Association says preparedness key:
- Get in the habit of conducting periodic safety checks to make sure your vehicle is in good operating condition.
- A safety check includes tires, lights, belts, hoses, fluids and windshield wipers.
- Read your owner’s manual to clearly understand which dash lights or signals indicate your vehicle is not operating properly and what to do in such situations.
- Before a road trip, contact (your roadside assistance provider) to arrange for a … test of your vehicle’s battery, starting and charging system. This can help determine how much life is left in your battery and if any other components need repairs.
- Program your cell phone with emergency numbers, including that of your roadside assistance provider, and keep a backup written list in your glove compartment.
- Always carry a well-stocked emergency kit and familiarize yourself with the use of safety flares, warning triangles and other emergency equipment.