Dalton Highway Driving Safety Tips July 11, 2018
These Dalton Highway Driving Safety Tips will help you have a safer, more enjoyable drive. Some might seem like common sense. However, being fully aware as you drive is of utmost importance to protect both you and other vehicles and cyclists on the road.
While we, like you, did due diligence prior to driving the Dalton Highway we still feel like we were not prepared for the adventure (and peril!) in store on the road. As such, we want you to be as prepared as you can be to make the journey safely so you can enjoy the drive.
Know Before You Go
The Dalton Highway is a 415 mile “out-and-back” road. If you check the road conditions prior to your journey you will find that there is only one stretch of around 35 miles where you can safely drive the speed limit. As such, we found it incredibly helpful to follow these Dalton Highway Driving Safety Tips as we successfully completed our 830-mile roundtrip drive to/from Deadhorse, Alaska!
You will find that these Dalton Highway Driving Safety Tips will help you better interact with other drivers on the road. Courtesy and respect are of utmost importance while driving the Dalton Highway. People drive the road for many reasons and following these will lead to a generally more enjoyable experience for everyone. Of course, it will also help you and other drivers complete the journey safely.
If you want to know where to plan your stops you can check out a guideline by The Milepost. These points are particularly important in planning your fuel stops!
Dalton Highway Driving Safety Tips
We have divided our suggestions into two general types. One we call “Rules” and the other is “Tips.”
“Rules” are not necessarily legal laws. We just suggest that you treat them as absolutes when you drive. These will protect you and your passengers, but also provide respect and courtesy for those people who drive the Dalton Highway for work.
“Tips” are actions that will make your drive safer and more enjoyable. You don’t have to heed these either. But having safely completed following these guidelines we think you’ll benefit from our experience.
NOTE: – We did have a tire blow out and we did stop for several other people who experienced mechanical troubles on the highway. So we feel we learned enough to offer sound and reasonable advise to make your drive better!
Dalton Highway Driving “Rules”
1. Let approaching big rig (semi-trucks) pass from in front.
If you are not on clearly marked divided highway (paved), move over to the side and slow or stop to let them pass. NOTE: The faster you go past them on dirt roads the greater the chance they will kick gravel into your windshield! It’s better to come to a complete stop and let them pass than to end up with a cracked windshield!
2. Let approaching big rig (semi-trucks) pass from behind.
Check your rearview and sideview mirrors constantly to ensure that you are not holding up traffic behind. If you have a big rig behind you, put on your right turn blinker and move over to the side immediately. This is a tourist trip for you. For the drivers it is their job. Please respect that!
3. Let all faster traffic pass.
People drive at all sorts of speeds on the Dalton Highway. You could be up to speed or even over the speed limit and you might have a line of traffic behind you. Whether you are sauntering along enjoying the scenery or traveling at breakneck speed, let all faster traffic pass you from behind.
4. Try to stay up to speed.
The speed limit for most of the Dalton Highway is 50 miles per hour. This is both for safety and efficiency. While dirt roads seem daunting, especially to smaller vehicles or those carrying large loads, reaching 50 mph will actually help you safely navigate the dirt roads. It will also keep you from holding up traffic behind you. And, did we mention, it will help you arrive at your destination sooner! NOTE: Some stretches of the highway are deceptively dangerous. Check out Dalton Highway Road Conditions first and ALWAYS be aware of upcoming changes in the road.
5. Don’t be afraid to slow down.
A speed limit is a maximum speed for safety issued for the highway. You do not need to go the maximum speed on the Dalton Highway. In fact, we rarely made it up to speed due to the constantly changing road conditions. So do not be afraid to slow down to a speed at which you feel safe and comfortable. However, note Rule #2 and Rule #3 and let all approaching traffic pass you.
6. Pick a lane, any lane.
Much of the Dalton Highway does not have clearly indicated lanes on the road. For most of the drive you will be on your own in the middle of Alaskan nowhere. This enables you to “pick a lane, any lane” in which you feel safe. However, use common sense and keep an eye both ahead and behind you so that you can return to the right lane when there is traffic.
7. Use emergency flashers (hazard lights) only when you are faced with an emergency.
If you stop to take a photo you should use one of the many pullouts. If no pullout is nearby and you still want your photo, pull to the right side as far as you can without going off the road. However, do not put your emergency flashers on unless it is an emergency. Many drivers WILL stop to offer assistance when they see a vehicle with emergency flashers on. Please don’t waste their time if you do not have an emergency!
8. Be aware when stopping to take photos.
You will stop to take photos. You’ll likely stop a LOT to take photos. The scenery along the Dalton Highway is THAT beautiful! However, when stopping for a photo please pull off at a designated pullout or, if one is not available, pull completely off the main highway to the right. NOTE: Traffic will still pass even when you are stopped. Be aware that a big rig traveling at 50 + mph will throw dust, rocks and mud at you if you are by the side of the road!
9. Stop for someone (everyone) on the side of the road.
The Dalton Highway is beautiful and for those of us brave enough to drive it in its entirety we are bound to run into trouble. Whether you have a tire blow out (which we had!) or you come across someone else with vehicle issues, it is the courteous and safe thing to stop and offer assistance. It is very likely that the issue is under control. However, don’t expect cell service anywhere on the Dalton Highway (until about 15 miles from Deadhorse). So when a stranded driver might normally call someone for help, it is likely you are their first and last line of assistance. Be prepared to carry the driver to the next populated area or to sit and wait with them until a truck or driver with a CB radio can stop and radio for assistance.
Enjoy the Drive!
Driving the Dalton Highway is incredibly rewarding! From the wildlife you will see to the spectacular, desolate landscapes the Dalton Highway is worth the drive. However, it is best to always be prepared for the harsh conditions of the road. If you follow these Dalton Highway Driving Safety Tips and know where to expect road conditions to change then you will have a safer, more enjoyable drive to the top of the world!