13 January 2015

A moose in every shadow

After seeing at least four moose (or one particularly suicidal ungulate) crossing the road or lurking in the ditch on our way to and from town in the past month or so, driving those long empty stretches of road through prime moose country in the dark makes me jumpy whenever I can't have my high beams on. Any dark ditch I can't see into, my brain automatically fills in with nebulous moose-shapes, and when the road dips slightly and the shadows move, I'm just sure a moose is about to jump out in front of us. 

We've never had one step out close enough that we couldn't stop, but winter roads can be slick and even having a moose begin crossing the road 300 feet in front of you in the dark is really scary. Without 4-wheel-drive and snow tires, I wouldn't feel at all confident that I could stop! Not that the driver or the stopability of the vehicle necessarily has anything to do with whether or not you hit a moose, if the moose jumps out immediately in front of you, or even jumps onto your vehicle. (It happens. You'd think they couldn't be stupid enough to do that, but when I was a kid, I was in a Suburban when a moose literally jumped out of a willow-filled ditch, over a guard rail, onto the hood of the SUV. Miraculously, no one was injured. Needless to say, the vehicle was totaled.)

Well, that's helpful: the Alaska DMV driver's manual is available online. Apparently the law only requires us to turn off high beams (switch to regular headlights) when 500 feet from a vehicle coming toward us, or 300 feet from a vehicle going the same direction. Is it accepted as common courtesy to switch off the brights sooner, though? I know it annoys me when a driver coming toward me from the opposite direction keeps his high beams on as he approaches... When there's a half mile of straight flat road between me and the oncoming driver, I don't know how close I'd let our vehicles get before turning off my brights.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I never contemplated the dangers of moose in that kind of depth before. I cannot even imagine having a moose jump on top of a Suburban. I hope your driving adventures continue to be free of moose contact!