Alaska is unlike any other state in the U.S. and, as is befitting our unique setting, the driving laws here are a bit different as well. Some laws provide a level of legal freedom that is rare in the lower 48. Others, however, require drivers use an extra level of vigilance and care.
If you are new to Alaska, or if you will be visiting our fair state, you can stay safe on the roadways by learning some of our more uncommon driving laws:
Daytime Headlight Use
Alaska law requires headlights for extended periods of time during the winter months. Certain Alaskan roadways require headlights to be on at all times year-round. Motorcyclists must use their headlights at all times. Many Alaska residents drive with their headlights on at all times anyway, to ensure safety.
Speed limits in Alaska are slower than in most other locations in the U.S. Alleys have a speed limit of 15 mph. The law limits school zones and business districts to 20 mph. Residential areas have a speed limit of 25 mph. Any other roadway that is not classified as an alley, school zone, business district, or residential area has a default maximum speed of 55 mph. Some Alaska interstates and freeways have maximum speeds of 65 mph, which are typically marked.
Driving with Firearms
In Alaska, drivers are legally allowed to have a firearm, even a loaded one, in their vehicle. The firearm can be within reach and clearly visible, or you can conceal it without any special permits or licensing. Only drivers over 21 are allowed to carry.
Alaska law requires seat belts or restraint devices for all passengers at all times. In Alaska, not wearing a seat belt is a primary offense. This means that officers can pull you over and ticket you for this reason alone.
In Alaska, if you have five vehicles backed up behind you at any time, you are breaking the law. You must pull over to the side and let the traffic pass. Because so many of our roadways are two-lane thoroughfares with few opportunities to pass, this law is necessary to prevent delays.
Using a Phone While Driving
In Alaska, it is illegal to drive with any type of “visual screen device operating.” This means it is illegal to text and drive or use a tablet or laptop. It is legal to talk on the phone — while holding the phone in hand — however, if you need to look at the screen to dial, you will have violated the law.
Aspiring Alaska drivers can get their learner’s permit at the age of 14 — with parental permission. They can also obtain a license to operate a motor scooter at the same age.
Driving with Cannabis
In Alaska, if you are 21 or older, you can legally possess — and transport —cannabis — and drug paraphernalia — for personal use. You cannot drive under the influence of cannabis and you cannot consume it in public — but you can drive with it in your vehicle.
If you drive high, you face jail time, fines, a license suspension, and the installation of an ignition interlock system on your vehicle.
Alaska takes a tough stance on flashing your headlights at another driver to warn of a speed trap or for any other purpose. While Alaska statutes do not specifically mention flashing your headlights, it is illegal to use your high beams within 500 feet of an oncoming car, which would, in turn, prohibit the flashing of headlights.
Alaska driving laws require motorcycle helmets all underage riders and all passengers. Passengers must also have a footrest. Motorcycle lane splitting is legal in Alaska, which means you need to be vigilant and check for motorists opening their doors or preparing to change lanes. If you plan to ride in our state, brush up on the governing motorcycle laws and motorcycle insurance requirements. And remember to always be extra careful on the roadways.
Equal Road Access for All Travelers
If you drive in Alaska, it is important to remember that you are likely sharing the road with motor vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and those on foot. And, although no unusual driving laws in Alaska apply to pedestrians, all drivers are obligated to keep their eyes open and ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
If you want to read up a little more on the Alaska driving laws, you can check out the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles site or peruse the driver’s license handbook.
About Kelley & Canterbury LLC
Despite your best efforts to drive safely in Alaska, you cannot control the irresponsible or negligent actions of other drivers. The attorneys of Kelley & Canterbury LLC have worked since 1975 on behalf of Alaska residents who are injured in car wrecks, motorcycle crashes, and truck accidents. If you are ever involved in an accident in Anchorage, give us a call: 907-276-8185.
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