There are many issues that drivers must be concerned with. Some are within the driver’s control (speed, mechanical issues, obeying rules and regulations and etc.). Other things are not, but the driver can be on the alert for (weather, other drivers, wildlife, and etc.). Then there are those issues that just can’t be avoided. With the most obvious being:
The actual routed that must be traveled!
America has some of the longest stretches of highway in the industrialized world. We also spend more on our highway system than some countries have in their entire budget. However, that doesn’t always mean the roads are perfect (far from it). Many factors can determine the road conditions, highway budgets, amount of traffic, and terrain being the main factors.
Most highways have been improved to aid in the flow of traffic. Sometimes roads are adjusted to skirt around small communities, other times the communities have grown up around the new highway. But two things must be kept in mind. First, the better or more direct the road is, the more traffic will be sharing it. Second, most highways were not designed with the needs of the trucking industry in mind (though that is starting to change).
It is understandable that terrain and cost are the two driving factors when highways are designed. Then lobbyist and governments (federal, state, and local) add other restrictions and/or requirements. All of which is good for those who are wishing the best route to get to where they are going.
Every year the DOT (Department of Transportation) and other organizations post list of the most dangerous highways in The USA. So, after some careful research of various sources common consensus says these are a few of America’s worst roads. The 13 roads we will review are:
- I-10 in Arizona
- I-95 in Connecticut
- Dalton Highway in Alaska
- Highway 2 in Montana
- Highway 550 in Colorado
- California & Arizona’s I-15
- California’s Route 138
- I-285 in Georgia
- I-26 in South Carolina
- US 431 in Alabama
- US 24 Fort Wayne to Toledo
- US 6 in Utah
- US 129 in North Carolina
1. I-10 in Arizona
I-10 is part of the original Interstate Highway network, which runs 2460 miles (3959 km, that started in 1956 and was completed in 1990. It is America’s fourth-longest Interstate Highway, and the southernmost major interstate highway, running from Santa Monica, California, to Jacksonville, Florida.
However, the 150 mile stretch from Phoenix, Arizona to the California border is especially dangerous, accounting for approximately 85 deaths per year. That section has very little in the way of population and is mostly deserted.
2. I-95 in Connecticut
I-95 runs north and south, from Maine (US/Canada border) all the way south into Miami, Florida, though technically sections in Pennsylvania and New Jersey which are still under construction (scheduled completion 2018). It is the longest (north and south) and one of oldest interstate highways in the US.
Running along the eastern border of the United States it also cuts through the most densely population centers in the nation. I-95 combined, totals 1,919.74 mi (3,090 km), yet the vast majority of accidents happen on an 8 mile stretch in the city of Norwalk. But, be warned, almost the entire highway runs through excessively high traffic areas.
3. Dalton Highway in Alaska
The James W. Dalton Highway, known as the Dalton Highway, or Alaska Route 11, is a 414 mile (666 km) road up north in Alaska. It begins in Fairbanks and ends at Deadhorse, near the Arctic Ocean. It was built primarily to service the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields in 1974.
What make this road so bad is how it meanders and winds through the mountains of the Brooks Range, where America’s lowest temperature was recorded in 1971, minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit! To add to the issues it was opened to tourist in 1994. Usually 2 times a day helicopters patrol, looking for breakdowns and accidents. There is just one actual fuel stop located at the halfway point, in Coldfoot.
4. Highway 2 in Montana
US Route 2 runs east and west for almost 2,571 miles (4,138 km) across the northern part of the United States. Though technically it has been broken up by other interstate highway systems and actually connects with various Canadian highways. A section of it dates all the way to the 1926 highway plan.
According to the University of Minnesota, it has the highest fatality rate of any other region. Two of the greatest concerns are the weather and the vast open spaces. The weather is prone to high winds, blizzards, and black ice. And the area is extremely rural, resulting in long distances between emergency services, an average of 80 minutes for ambulances! And, keep in mind with the limited population, means less traffic, which increases the speed at which people tend to drive.
5. Highway 550 in Colorado
Highway 550, known as the “Million Dollar Highway”, is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Originally built to connect mining camps to the railroad in the 1880’s it was rebuilt in the 1920’s and was part of the original Federal Highway System. Though it has been rerouted several times, it currently runs between Montrose, Colorado and Aztec, New Mexico.
However, the 25 mile stretch in southwestern Colorado is especially gorgeous and dangerous. It winds its way up and down the steep mountains, reaching heights of 11,000 feet. Something that is unusual for most American roads is that it lacks guardrails and shoulders. The drop off can be extremely steep!
6. I-15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas
Interstate 15 is a western highway in the United States that generally runs north and south. Starting at the Mexican border and runs all the way to Alberta Canada. Built in the late 1950’s it is almost 1,433.52 mi (2,307.03 km) long.
The most travelled section is the 180 mile section between LA California and Las Vegas Nevada. It is estimated that 8 million people run back and forth, (according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority). Many of the accidents are attributed to drunk driving and failure to use seatbelts.
7. California’s Route 138
Route 138 is another east and west route following the San Gabriel Mountains. Cutting through the western Mojave Desert, in Southern California it is extremely scenic. It was completed in 1934 and runs approximately 105 miles (169 km).
It has been nicknamed the “Highway of Death”, due to a five year period creating a record number of accidents. During that window 56 people were killed and 875 were injured. Though many improvements have been made, on the highway since receiving that name, it still needs more.
8. Interstate-285, GA
I-285 is approximately 64 miles long, officially completed in 1969, and circles Atlanta, Georgia. Often it is referred to as the “perimeter”. Like so many cities, 285 allow commuters to loop around the main city without actually going downtown.
Throughout the years, as the metropolitan area expands so does the traffic. It is now one of the most heavily travelled highways in the area. An estimated 2 million plus people use it every day! During rush hour traffic can be so heavy that all lanes will be a slow crawl if not completely stopped.
9. I-26 in South Carolina
I-26 is technically east and west but actually more northeast and southwest. It runs approximately 306 miles. However the main route is broken up in parts and still under construction. In some areas the signs still read ‘future I-26’.
A short section was named one of the deadliest roads in South Carolina. Between 2000 and 2010 there were 286 accidents, 325 people were killed with most of these happening on a strip near Charleston. There are steep slopes with no safety guardrails, in 2009 it was reported that 7 out nine fatalities were from hitting trees and rolling over.
10. US 431 in Alabama
US Route 431 (a spur of Route 31) currently runs approximately 556 miles (895 km), opened in 1930. The main road runs from Owensboro, Kentucky (U.S. Route 60) to Dothan, Alabama, (U.S. Route 231 and U.S. Route 84).
But it’s the 98 mile section from Phoenix City to Dothan that has been called one of America’s most dangerous roads by Reader’s Digest. Just in one month four people were killed. The pickup truck, packed with over 10 people, rolled over. But there have been numerous other accidents; the road is dotted with little white crosses, from the victims’ families and friends. Fortunately, many construction efforts have begun to improve the highway.
11. US 24 Fort Wayne to Toledo
US Route 24 is another highway built in 1926. It runs mostly east and west from Minturn, Colorado stretching some 1,540 miles (2,478 km) to Independence Township. In Toledo, Ohio in transitions into a more north and south direction, though. It is a main route for commercial vehicles transporting materials between Toledo, Ohio and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Grassroots organizations in Toledo spent more than 20 years trying to get state officials to make the highway wider and to make other related improvements. Finally in 2012 a 23 mile section was widened from its original two lane design. This section was notorious for a high rate a fatal accidents. The entire stretch was known as “the killway”.
12. US 6 in Utah
US Route 6 (Grand Army of the Republic Highway in honor of the American Civil War Veterans Association) runs east-northeast from Bishop, California to Provincetown Massachusetts. Though, the 3,198 mile (5,148 km) route has been adjusted numerous times since 1936. Technically, many sections have been absorbed into new highways or run a ‘parallel’ path. It’s usually much longer than the newer routes.
Yet, it is still heavily used either for nostalgic reasons. Another reason, it connects 6 major cities and/or other interstate highways. With all this added traffic makes it for a potentially hazardous journey because of the road is extremely curvy. Additionally the weather conditions (snow and ice) and wildlife crossing adds to the dangers. A common bumper sticker says, “I drive 6 Pray for Me.”
13. US 129 in North Carolina
US Route 129 (US 129) runs for almost 582 miles (937 km) from Chiefland Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee. This is a fairly remote and lightly populated/developed stretch of highway. It is also a very popular destination for motorcyclist and sports car enthusiast.
There is an 11 mile section at Deals Gap (the Tennessee and North Carolina state line), called the Tail of the Dragon, The Dragon’s Tail, or simply The Dragon. It boasts an amazing 318 curves, making it possibly the curviest section of highway in the United States. It is highly recommended to travel slowly and to remain in your lane along this short section.
Honorable mention: US Route 1 in Maine
US Route 1 runs parallel to I-95 (its farther west inland). Completed in 1926 it runs 2,369 miles (3,813 km), from Fort Kent, Maine (the US/Canada Border) south to Key West, Florida. Many sections of the highway run close to the Atlantic Ocean.