Slow Down. Enjoy the View. Watch the Road.

Car driving on road in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone
Sunrise drive in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Jacob W. Frank, NPS

National parks provide a unique and memorable driving experience for many visitors. Whether you are enjoying the fall foliage in Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the breathtaking scenery of Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, or watching the sunrise from Summit Road in Acadia National Park, you should always be aware of your surroundings and drive safely. “Driving safely in our National Parks” means more than just driving the speed limit; it means obeying traffic regulations, wearing seatbelts, and paying attention to the road.

Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of unintentional fatalities in national parks. Unfortunately, one person dies in a motor vehicle crash every week on National Park Service roadways. Most crashes occur during the daytime in summer months, when parks have the most visitors.

To reduce your risks of injury from a motor vehicle crash, keep these important driving tips in mind:

Scenic views, wildlife, architectural details, the navigation system, your phone, passengers. These are some of the many things that can distract you while driving on a national park roadway. Keep your eyes and attention focused on the road at all times. One quick glance at a text message or looking too long at the scenery could cost you or someone else’s life!

"Texting and driving is not worth the risk. We encourage you to disconnect and enjoy the natural splendor of our national parks.”
--
John Hughes, NPS Traffic Safety Coalition
Don’t be in a rush to get from Point A to Point B when visiting us. Many of our roads are historic and uniquely designed to enhance your experience in the park. The roadway widths are narrower, speed limits are slower, curves may be steep, and common design features you see on other public roads may not be present on national park roads. By taking your time, you’ll be able to enjoy your experience and navigate our unique roads safely.
Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat can be quite awe-inspiring. National parks provide natural and often untouched habitat for rare and endangered native species. Many of these animals are good at hiding along roadsides, and they can decide to cross at any time. It is important to be aware that animals are around, even when you do not see them.

Do not feed any animals from your car! It is very unhealthy for an animal to eat “people food” for many reasons. Their digestive systems are not like ours. They may die or become seriously ill if they eat our food. Feeding from your car will also encourage animals to hang out on the sides of roads, which increases the chances for car collisions with animals. The number of motor vehicle crashes in national parks involving wildlife are twice the national average!
Buckle up! It’s the law in national parks! Not to mention that wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to prevent serious injury and death. You are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash if you are not wearing your seat belt. The driver and passengers need to wear their seat belt at all times. Children must wear a seat belt or be properly buckled into their infant, convertible, or booster seat. Remember, you are the key to protecting yourself and your passengers!
Drinking and driving in the national parks is illegal and you may be prosecuted. Alcohol affects your brain function, reasoning skills, and coordination, all of which are essential to safely operate a vehicle. If you plan to drink, assign a designated driver in your group before you hit the road. It is important to note that consuming or carrying an open, alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle is illegal in national parks.
Speeding is a factor in many motor vehicle crashes within national parks. According to the CDC, almost one in three crashes is a result of speeding. Speed limits are slower in national parks than in most other roadways. It is important to abide by the speed limits that you see when traveling within national parks.
Always be aware of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Pedestrians make up almost 15% of the deaths in traffic crashes. Give bicycles and motorcycles longer following distance, 3 to 4 seconds. Check your mirrors and blind spots before merging, turning, or switching lanes. Motorcycles and bicycles are smaller than cars and can be difficult to see, especially when they are in your vehicle's "blind spot". Motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured based on national data. Pay special attention during storms or nighttime conditions.
Some national parks offer alternate methods of transportation, such as buses or trolleys, to enhance your park experience, help alleviate congestion on the roadways, and improve the safety of all roadway users. Visit your park’s website at www.nps.gov or call your park to learn if these methods are available. Consider using alternative transportation in parks to fully enjoy the scenery!
NPS Trip Planning Guide PDF

For more information on how to plan your trip, see our NPS Trip Planning Guide.

Last updated: September 5, 2018