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As part of a road trip, I am thinking of crossing the Canadian Rockies by car during night time, from Banff, AB to Kamloops, BC.

I am aware that some areas in Canada are not recommended to be driven through at night, mostly because of large animals that may cross the roads. Is it the case of this section, in the middle of the Banff National Park, or can I drive through it by night with a "regular" sedan car without worrying at all?

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    I've not yet visited Canada. In NZ I've ridden a motorcycle past a black cow on a dark night on a gravel road - only seeing the cow as I passed it ! | In Australia the 'roos come out at dusk and 'roo bars' suddenly change from a townies affectation to a countryman's panel damage preventer. Bull bars also exist :-(. || I'd drive the Rockies at night if needs must - but by day would be better for the views. But at night I'd remember my cow + motorcycle experience and take things REALLY carefully. – Russell McMahon Jun 3 '15 at 3:03
  • I've had a similar experience in Kansas many years ago. Late at night on I-70 I passed a deer that was just standing in the other lane of the carriageway. At 105kph. I didn't see it until I was right on top of it and it was too late to do anything else but pray. – Michael Hampton Jun 3 '15 at 15:16
  • @Vince - as some others have said, why would you want to? I've driven through it myself and some of nature's finest handiwork it is. Driving through at night is like walking through the Sistine Chapel wearing a blindfold, you need to see it to experience it. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jun 3 '15 at 20:10
  • @TheWanderingDevManager Yeah I know it, I already went across the area on the Greyhound by a moonlit night and the little I saw was great, really. I promised myself I would be back, by day. I plan to go around the area by day also, and multiple times, so don't worry for me, I will enjoy the scenic features of the area, more than once. – Vince Jun 3 '15 at 21:24
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One big problem here is that deer, elk and moose can't read. They don't know or care about national park boundaries, highways, etc. And a moose can weigh half as much as your car; if you hit one, your car will probably be totaled - and the moose might even walk away!

If you'll watch that video (and this one), you'll note that collisions can even happen in daylight; the moose can literally come out of nowhere before you have a chance to see them. At night it's very possible you won't even know there is a moose there before you hit it, if it is looking away from you as you drive toward it.

Note that while there are more and less populated areas, you can find a moose virtually anywhere in Canada below the Arctic Circle. This includes within towns and cities, so don't let down your guard simply because you arrived in a town somewhere.

Wildlife warning sign you may see leaving Banff

While roads in the areas with high moose activity will have warning signs, as I mentioned before, moose can't read and may try to cross the road practically anywhere. You should drive cautiously on this route even in the daytime.

Moose Night Danger

If you do drive here at night, the advice I have heard given most often is to carry a passenger who can watch the roadway and help you spot animals who may be on or near the road. If you haven't got a passenger, watch for reflection from their eyes, which you may be able to see from a long way off.

The more general advice also applies:

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Watch both sides of the road. Many people make the mistake of mostly or only watching the right side of the road, especially on motorways like the Trans-Canada Highway. But animals can easily cross the median.

    (And note that this highway is dual carriageway in Alberta, but becomes a two-lane single carriageway when you cross into British Columbia.)

  • Drive more slowly, 90kph or less, to give you more ability to stop and take evasive action, and to reduce the impact of a collision.

  • If you think there may be an animal ahead, turn off your high beam headlights and slow down further.
  • In places which do have signs, be extra cautious, as these are the areas with the highest levels of activity.
  • Be extra cautious at dawn and after dusk. These are the times large animals are most active.
  • Keep your car centred in the carriageway as much as possible, to give you more options for evasive action.
  • If an animal does appear in front of you, just slam on the brakes. If you swerve, you may collide with other traffic (or another animal!) or lose control of your vehicle.

Also note that British Columbia authorities publish advice regarding wildlife on their drivebc.ca website.

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    Moose tend not to survive crashes, as their long legs get broken by the impact with a car and their bodies tend to come through the windshields taking out the driver. – user13044 Jun 2 '15 at 23:31
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    +1 for slam the brakes. never attempt to dodge a moving obstacle by randomly steering abruptly. – JoErNanO Jun 3 '15 at 14:17
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    @JoErNanO and Michael, I understand the reasons to "slam the brakes". However traffic on such roads is usually mostly trucks, and in North America, drivers in general drive very close to each other. It is worth noting that one must be super cautious not only about upcoming large animals, but also about keeping a safe distance with large trucks that will not "slam the brakes". – Vince Jun 3 '15 at 14:46
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    @Vince Perhaps you could just find one of these large trucks and follow it. :) – Michael Hampton Jun 3 '15 at 15:02
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Is it safe to drive at night, yes. But one has to ask, why drive it at night, it is a beautiful route that should be driven during the daylight hours to be enjoyed.

Driving through any of the western mountain ranges in North America requires a bit more attention to the road ahead of you, keeping an eye out for wildlife that may wander into the roadway. Fortunately highway departments are widening the route through the forest, cutting the trees and brush back quite a ways from the highway itself, providing a bigger gap between the forest's edge and the road. Of course the downside to this is that more grass grows in the clearing which attracts animals for grazing in the evening hours.

While the area you are driving through is inhabited by big animals: deer, wapiti, moose, bison, bear, etc, they are not a reason to avoid driving at night. Just keep your eyes open, stay alert and quit driving if you feel the least bit sleepy. Or better yet, drive through in the daytime and enjoy the view.

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Qualifier: I used to live in Calgary and have driven Calgary-Vancouver many times.

As well explained in other answers, there are wildlife on the roam. But it's the mountains which adds rockfall and cliffs to the equation. The mountains can easily drop a rock the size of your kitchen table onto the highway at any time, and in some places you have the combination of single-lane traffic, tight turns and "sharp drop off pavement edge" means it's a looooong way down. They'll find your wreck in a day or two.

You can easily do Calgary to Vancouver in 12 hours. The enroute scenery is quite spectacular, and if you want to make a few stops on the way, Revelstoke or Kamloops are good mid-points.

At the west end of the drive, skip the Coquihalla Highway (#5) and use old Hwy 1 through Cache Creek and Lytton. Much nicer views and all the trucks and RVs tend to stay on the new road.

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