Always have a travel plan when driving on NWT highways. Know where to get fuel, where the nearest repair facilities are, and what the hours of operation are. Check road conditions by visiting our Highway Conditions page or calling 1-800-661-0750.
Be aware that at the beginning and end of the ferry operating season, ice conditions and fluctuating water levels may shut down services with little or no notice.
The RCMP provide highway emergency assistance: call (867) (3-digit local exchange)-1111. For example, in Yellowknife, the number is (867) 873-1111 and in Hay River the number is (867) 874-1111. Cellular coverage along highways and in some communities is limited or non-existent.
Safety tips for northern driving:
- Wear your seat belt and keep your headlights on at all times: it’s the law in the NWT.
- Drive with caution and stay aware of conditions.
- Carry a spare tire, first aid kit, tow rope, flare, ax, knife, matches, candles, and extra fuel.
- Keep your vehicles in good mechanical condition.
- Fit your headlights with wire mesh or plastic protectors.
- Reduce your speed when approaching other vehicles: this reduces dust and flying stones.
- Carry extra food and water.
- Bring seasonally appropriate gear: windshield cleaner and insect repellent in summer, extra warm clothes and sleeping bags in winter.
How can I get information about highway conditions?
- Highway conditions are always available on our website: click the highway you are interested in.
- Call 1-800-661-0750 any time.
- Follow us on Twitter for updates: @GNWT_DOT.
Why do highways close?
- We close the highway if conditions are unsafe. This can happen on short notice, so always stay aware of changing conditions.
- During fire season, highways may be closed because smoke is affecting visibility or fire is too close to the highway. During the winter, highways may be closed because blizzards are affecting visibility or other weather conditions are making the highway unsafe to travel.
How can I plan travel when conditions are changing quickly?
- Always have a travel plan and share it with others. At any time of year, weather conditions and vehicle breakdowns can cause delays, and on some NWT highways the nearest community may be 100 km away or farther.
- Stay aware of changing highway conditions. If the highway is opening and closing on short notice, be ready to go when it opens. Be patient if it closes.
- Bring more healthy food and water than you think you will need. Bring clothing and other supplies that are appropriate for the weather. Be prepared to spend one or more nights along the highway in an emergency situation.
- Make sure you have enough fuel. Stations along your route may run out of gas if demand is higher than usual. Carry jumper cables and a spare tire in your vehicle at all times. Keep your vehicle properly maintained, with all systems in good operating condition and good tires. Be especially alert if you are driving an older vehicle.
Why are convoys sometimes one-way only?
- A convoy is an escorted group of vehicles travelling together to ensure safety. They are scheduled when conditions allow for very brief controlled travel with emergency response vehicles nearby.
- When convoys are necessary, highway conditions may be changing quickly and drivers often need to be more cautious than usual. The convoy may travel in the middle of the highway. Passing, slowing, or stopping creates a safety concern for all of the vehicles in the group. Under these conditions, one-way travel is safest. Two-way convoys are used when conditions allow.
- Escorts make every effort to take as many vehicles in each convoy as possible. In some rare emergency situations it may be necessary to prioritize traffic. This may happen if some vehicles are carrying critical supplies or if conditions on both sides of the closure are significantly different due to factors like weather or available facilities.
How do you decide if the highway is safe to travel?
- Patrol vehicles travel along the highway, noting visibility issues and any safety concerns along the route. ENR provides weather projections, including fire and wind predictions during fire season. All of this information is used to project times that it will be safe to travel the entire distance from one community to another. A section of a highway will be closed if it is unsafe to travel.