If you like your driving experience to have the added danger element, then these roads are for you. These are the world’s most dangerous roads, with high altitudes, sharp turns, brutal dirt road sections, and scenery so beautiful and distracting that people die. There are so many exceptionally dangerous stretches of road out there that it would be nearly impossible to put them all into one list, so we’ve decided to divide them up by geographical location rather than actually ranking the least to the most dangerous. Besides, how do you quantify the “most dangerous” anyway? For many drivers, the most dangerous roads are the ones within a mile radius of your own home. For others, they’re the gravel stretches that latch onto the side of dangerous cliffs. It’s a hard one to judge, so while these are certainly dangerous, they’re also breathtakingly beautiful too, so consider this list a bit dangerous and a bit scenic too.
Europe’s Most Dangerous Roads
Europe has no shortage of spectacular roads to drive. If you’re planning a driving trip to Europe, here are some of the best:
Transfagarasan Highway (Romania)
Christened the “best road in the world” by the BBC’s Top Gear, the Transfagarasan Highway cuts across Romania’s tallest mountains, the Fagaras, between the provinces of Transylvania and Muntenia. It was constructed in the 1970s by the Romanian military under the direction of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, at a massive cost that wasn’t all financial — 40 soldiers lost their lives building the highway.
The 100-km Transfagarasan is open only a few months of the year, usually from late June through October, because snow and other weather conditions make it impassable the rest of the year. In fact, the Transfagarasan can be closed by snow even in the middle of summer. The highway crosses Romania’s highest mountain, Moldoveanu, reaching a height of 2,034 km and offering spectacular views. Other sights along the way include Balea Lake and Waterfall, the 900-meter-long and unlit Balea Tunnel, and Poenari Fortress, a ruined castle formerly home to the notorious Prince Vlad the Impaler.
Stelvio Pass (Italy)
Located high in the Italian Alps near the Australian border, the steep, winding Stelvio Pass is an ultimate challenge for drivers and cyclists, with 60 hairpin turns over a climb of 1,871 m over the course of 24 km — an average slope of 7.4%. Even professional drivers have been tested by Stelvio’s twists and turns, but the amazing views of the Alpine landscape are worth it.
The road through the Stelvio Pass was originally built by the Austrian military in the 19th century and has changed little since then. As with the Transfagarasan, Stelvio Pass is closed by snow for most of the year, except for June through September, and unfortunately can be very busy during those open months. The Stelvio is best driven from the northwest, so you can have the experience of climbing the “wall” of 48 switchbacks that make up the north face of the pass.
Amalfi Drive (Italy)
This old Roman road between the towns of Sorrento and Amalfi in southern Italy is carved out of the sea cliff over the Tyrrhenian Sea for most of its 50-km length. However, the Romans didn’t install guardrails, and modern Italians have only put a few in place, so for most of the way on the Amalfi Drive, there’s nothing between you and a sheer drop to the sea — especially if you’re driving on the southbound outer lane.
If your nerves can stand it, however, the Amalfi Drive offers a spectacular contrast between the massive cliffs and the deep blue sea. Stop over in the cliffside resort town of Positano halfway through the drive to relax.
Atlantic Ocean Road (Norway)
Built across a stretch of the Norwegian coast that’s open to the North Atlantic, the road is comprised of a series of bridges connecting a smattering of islands, for a total length of about six miles. In the summer, with blue skies and calm seas, the Atlantic Ocean Road is a tourists’ delight. In the winter, with gray skies and angry seas, keep both hands on the wheel and make certain all your windows are closed, as this stretch of highway can easily become one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Seasonal Pontoon Bridge,Yamalo-Nenetsky Avtonomny Okrug (Russia)
Right at the Arctic Circle in Northern Russia, the Nadym River is frozen over for 8 months out of the year, so a rickety pontoon bridge is installed for the summer months. Watch what happens when a cautious Ford Focus driver holds up a construction truck and almost gets washed overboard in the process. Plans are to eliminate the bridge this year with a 12 month combination railroad/vehicle bridges (which may spawn a YouTube video its own).
Asia’s Scariest Journeys
Sidu River Bridge (China)
When asked, most people say that crossing a gorge is more frightening that crossing over water or land. So we’ll start with the most nail-biting of the bunch. Opened in 2009, the 3/4 mile only suspension bridge became the highest in the world, with the Sihu River flowing 1,600 feet (16 stories) below the road surface. For reference, the Empire State Building is 1454 feet to its very tip.
Guoliang Tunnel Road (China)
Lit by the headlights of passing cars, the Guoliang Tunnel cuts through the Taihang Mountains in the Hunan Province of China . Local villagers built this mountain road in 1972 to connect to the other parts of the country and it took 5 years to finish. This tunnel is almost a mile long, 16 feet tall and 13 feet wide and it has been dubbed “the road that does not tolerate mistakes”.
One-lane Car + Railroad Bridge (New Zealand)
New Zealand has numerous one-lane bridges scattered around the country, a situation the government is rectifying. Here’s an example of a one-lane bridge being retrofitted but has the surprise element of a set of railroad tracks running down the middle of the road. Note the width: 3.5 meters. For those of you who failed metric, it means if you drive a Ford F-150 down the middle of the road you’ll have less than two inches clearance on each side. Tight!
Taroko Gorge Road (Taiwan)
The Taroko Gorge Road, officially the “Central Cross-Island Highway” was the first road to bisect the center of Taiwan. It also passes through a National Park of extreme beauty. So while the 12-mile long road has been widened to accommodate two full lanes of traffic (barely) there are a number of tunnels that have not been widened. Throw in a mix of hikers, bicyclists, 50 inches of rain, three to four monsoon rains per year, plus fairly regular seismic activities and you’ve got a great recipe for one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Eshima Ohashi Bridge (Japan)
Located on the west side of the main Japanese island of Honshū, the Eshima Ohashi Bridge connects two islands in a busy commercial cargo harbor. The height of the bridge is required so that mammoth cargo ships can pass beneath and the steepness is as a result of the small footprints of the islands it connects. Don’t let your palms get too sweaty, though. The bridge isn’t as steep as it looks from this angle.
Ko Paen Bamboo Bridge (Cambodia)
The bamboo bridge crossing the Mekong River to Koh Paen is totally built by hand each year, as during the rainy season it’s entirely underwater. Reports are that passing over it in a vehicle can be nerve-racking at the bridge rattles and sways. Vehicle traffic is directed by police radio, alternating direction every so often. Just don’t light a match.
Karakoram Highway (Pakistan)
The Karakoram Highway links China and Pakistan through the Khunjerab Pass, at an altitude of 15,397 feet (higher than any mountain in the lower 48). It’s the highest paved road in the world! The road is prone to frequent landslides and washouts and to make matters worse, the road is mostly rock, gravel, and dirt on the Pakistan side.
Aizhai Suspension Bridge, Hunan (China)
The Aizhai suspension bridge, the world’s highest and longest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge, links two tunnels 3,858 feet apart, carrying traffic 1165 feet above the floor of Dehang Canyon. The bridge forms a key section of the Jishou-Chadong Expressway, which has 18 tunnels in total comprising about half of its length, so if you’re both claustrophobic and gephyrophobic it’s definitely a trip you’ll wanna take!
Abano Pass (Georgia)
The Abano Pass is a high mountain pass located in the region of Tusheti, Georgia, in the central part of the Great Caucasus Mountains, at an elevation of 9,350 ft above the sea level, it’s the highest drivable mountain pass in the region. Due to high altitude and snowy winters, the pass is closed from mid-October through the end of June. While the road is only 50 miles long, locals count on a driving time of over 12 hours, making this very easily one of the most dangerous roads in the world.
Alam Bridge (Pakistan)
Built with using a combination of iron rods and wood over the Gilgit River, the Alam Bridge is one of the longest bridges in this region of Pakistan, and measures nearly 1,000 feet in length. In view of its dangers, regional authorities are deployed at the bridge to ensure vehicles don’t exceed the speed limit. In addition, trucks and other loaded vehicles weighing more than 20 tons are not allowed to pass. It’s not known whether this driver was overloaded or just made and an error, but the damaged caused a temporary closure of the bridge.
Nanga Parbat Pass (Pakistan)
Oddly, this treacherous strip of gravel is sometimes referred to as the “Fairy Meadows Road.” The reason is that it provides access to a beautiful camping area by that name. The road is carved into the 26,660 foot Nanga Parbat mountain in Pakistan. It’s barely wide enough for a small Jeep, so encountering an oncoming vehicle may require diplomatic skills. There’s not a single guardrail for the entire length of the unpaved road, and rocks slides are a constant problem on this dangerous road.
Skippers Canyon Road (New Zealand)
Skippers Canyon Road, located on New Zealand’s South Island, was hand carved by miners over 140 years ago. The road was built during the gold rush, between 1883 and 1890, Skippers Road was considered a major engineering feat in its day. The road is so narrow that if two vehicles meet, one vehicle is required to reverse for up to a mile of winding narrow road to get to a place wide enough to pass.
Kabul to Jalalabad Road (Afghanistan)
First, this road runs right through the middle of Afghanistan, so that alone should qualify it for this list. In addition, this 40-mile road between Kabul and Jalalabad has very few regulations and virtually no enforcement, so when traffic is not at a dead stop, drivers fly through the narrow, curvy pass as if scouts from Ferrari were recruiting new F1 talent. Impatience is usually the word of the day: aggravated drivers aggressively pass slow-moving trucks and often cause fatal accidents or even drive themselves off the side of a cliff.
Central And South America
Baluarte Bridge, Sinaloa (Mexico)
Don’t call it a suspension bridge, the Baluarte Bridge is the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, the third-highest bridge overall and the highest bridge in the Americas. The bridge has a total length of 3,688 feet with a central cable-stayed span of 1,710 feet. The road deck hangs 1,322 ft. above the valley below (that’s further than the Washington Monument perched on top of the Eiffel Tower). The bridge forms part of a new highway linking the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of northern Mexico and has reduced travel time between Durango and Mazatlán by 3.5 hours.
North Yungas Road (Bolivia)
For most people it doesn’t cross their mind that the roads that they drive on will be well-maintained and safe, but in certain parts of the world simply driving on the road can be an extremely frightening experience. While there are hundreds of dangerous roads there is one road above any other that has been called the most dangerous road is in the world and that is the North Yungas Road.
This road has a number of names and you might see it referred to as as Coroico Road, Road of Death, Camino de las Yungas, Grove’s Road or simply Death Road. It is located in Bolivia and it runs from La Paz which is the capital of the country to Coroico which is in the Amazon region.
Each year it is estimated that between 200 to 300 people are killed along the stretch of road which runs for around 69 kilometers. To mark where cars and other vehicles have fallen off the road there are numerous crosses which remind travelers about the perilous journey that they are making.
The road was built by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War in the 1930s. From 1986 to 2006 the road underwent modernization and included a new separate route with drainage, bridges, guardrails, pavements. The new route is also wider so it can accommodate two lanes of traffic,meaning that it is much safer to travel along. This has led to a significant drop in the number of vehicles using the original road.
- At the start of the road, as it runs from La Paz, it quickly ascends to a height of 15,260 feet or 4,650 meters as it reaches the La Cumbre Pass. As the road reaches the town of Coroico it descends to a height of 3,900 feet or 1,200 meters.
- The road winds through rainforests and cliffs.
- Many of the drops at the side of the road are around 1,830 feet or 600 meters.
- Much of the road is single lane and is no wider than 10 feet or 3.2 meters.
- There are no guard rails at any part along the road, making it even more dangerous to travel long.
- Visibility is also very poor along the road with fog, dust and rain making driving even more difficult and dangerous.
- In 1983 a bus left the road and fell into a ravine, killing over 100 people. This is thought to be the worst accident on the roads in Bolivia.
- One of the rules of driving on the road stipulates that the uphill driver always has the right of way.
- Vehicles on the road are also expected to drive on the left. Throughout the rest of Bolivia drivers must drive on the right but driving on the left is to make driving on the road safer as views of the road sides are clearer.
- The original road is now mainly used by mountain bikers who enjoy the almost unbroken 40 mile downhill straight.
- Even though it is a popular destination for thrill seekers there have been approximately 20 deaths of cyclists since 1998.
What About The Most Dangerous Roads In The USA?
Automotive enthusiasts live for twisty roads that challenge driver and car alike. The sensations they deliver are universal: The feeling of g forces as they rise when you begin your braking as you approach the turn, the subtle yet irresistible shift of forces as you draw back on the braking and begin the turn-in, the complete transfer of forces to lateral as the tires search for grip, the reduction in laterals forces as the wheel is unwound and the firm but gentle application of the accelerator pulling the car through the exit of the turn. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Here are eight of our favorites, avoiding those obvious recommendations that appear on so many other lists.
The Berthoud Pass looks more like a four-lane highway over a pass in Switzerland than the typical two-lane roads used in the US. The pass is a portion of US 80, north of its intersection with US 70. The Berthoud Pass is considered one of the most notoriously difficult in Colorado, based on its 11,307 foot altitude as well as the large number of switchbacks on the southern side of the pass. Sounds like fun to me.
Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado
If you’re not planning on a trip to China anytime soon, you can drop by Cañon City, Colorado and visit the bridge that held the record as the highest bridge from its opening in 1929 until being overtaken in 2001. Hanging 955 feet above the Arkansas River, the bridge is 1,260 feet long.
Russell–Brasstown Scenic Byway
The Russell–Brasstown Scenic Byway is a 40.6 mile highway in the State of Georgia, which is also marked as SR 348. The Russell–Brasstown Scenic Highway winds its way through about 40 switchbacks, traversing pristine valleys and the southern Appalachian Mountains, including passing through the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
North Cascades Scenic Loop
Featuring well-maintained smooth roads with plenty of hairpin curves, straights made for passing, two mountain passes and some of the most stunning sights you can see in North America, Highway 20 in Washington state appears as though it was designed for driving enthusiasts.
Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
Despite the name, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway is actually located in New York State (also know as NY Route 97). The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway is a 70.53-mile route in southern New York running parallel to the New York – Pennsylvania border. It was selected by Motorcycle magazine as one of the best roads for riding in the Northeast. ‘nuf said.
Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway is a stretch of two-lane blacktop through the San Juan Mountains, a section of the Colorado Rockies where drivers cross an 11,312 foot pass. Officially listed as US-550, the highway runs south from the Gunnison River near Montrose to the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. While the history of the name “Million Dollar Highway” is shrouded in mystery, the name is most often associated with to 25 miles of steep and twisting roads that link Ouray and Silverton, a pair of remote gold and silver mining communities.
Arkansas Scenic Highway
While perhaps not as spectacular as some of the roads crossing the mountain ranges of the west, the 157 mile Arkansas Scenic Highway (also known as Arkansas Highway 7) can be an enjoyable ride, with challenging sections climbing out of and into valleys along the route, with plenty of scenery along the way.
Chief Joseph Scenic Highway
The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is a well-maintained road that runs along the edge of Yellowstone National Park. The road itself features countless switchbacks, one section of switchback run for almost 50 miles. There’s several vertical assents trough mountains passes of 10,000 feet and higher. Reports have it that the road sees very little traffic.
Arizona State Route 89A
Arizona State Route 89A runs north-south through the middle of the state. As you can see by the photo above, it appears for all the world as an incomplete raceway, that is, one that doesn’t connect back upon itself. The most challenging section starts in Clarksdale, through the old mining town of Jerome and down into Prescott.
But If Big Road Trips Aren’t Your Thing And You Prefer Danger Closer To Home…
The Five Most Dangerous Intersections in America
Do You Live Near Any Of The Most Dangerous Intersections In America?
With little thought, anyone who has lived in a major city might name an intersection in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Washington DC as the most dangerous intersection in the country. Chicago, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh are also good choices, and almost everyone can name an intersection or two in their home town they would like to see bulldozed.
Using 2001 data, State Farm developed a list of the most dangerous intersections in America. Let’s just go by state here, as many of these problems have already been fixed.
4. Arizona, and
Kudos to Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma for cleaning up these roads.
By 2008, Forbes found what anyone who has ever driven in New York City would expect; and the winners are:
1. Bronx, NY: Cross Bronx Expressway/I-95 at Bronx River Parkway
2. San Rafael, CA: I-580 at Bellam Boulevard
3. Bronx, NY: Cross Bronx Expressway/I 95 at I-895/Sheridan Expressway
4. Bronx, NY: Cross Bronx Expressway/I-95 at White Plains Rd
5. New York City, NY: Harlem River Drive at 3rd Ave
The conclusion is obvious… no one should be driving in New York City.
Even so, we all know danger abounds in every state in America. What can we do avoid dangerous intersections?
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
Avoid rush hour
In most large cities, rush hour runs from 6:30 – 9:30 am and 3:30 – 7:00 pm. If at all possible, plan your trip around these hours. If feasible, you might even arrive a day early to a conference to avoid the rush.
Find a different route
There are many ways to get to the same place in a large city. It’s easier if you’re a native, but with some planning, you can find a route that avoids the dangerous intersections.
Give yourself enough time
A rule of thumb in Washington DC is to double the time needed to drive, if you’re traveling during rush hour, or using routes under construction. If you can, ask a native how long to plan your trip for, than add 30%. If the weather is bad, however, all bets are off.
If you’re in New York City don’t drive
Although a cab can be expensive, it’s no worse than hours stuck in traffic. And if you drive to your destination on time and in one piece, the parking will cost as much as a cab anyway.
Road rage feels really good when it’s happening, but the costs – possibly ending up in jail or the hospital – aren’t worth it. Remember there are thousands of drivers on the same road who feel like you, and be tolerant of each other.
Drive a safe car
If you must drive into one of the most dangerous roads in America, especially on a regular basis (which thousands of people do), be sure to check out the car safety rating for your car. In the next installment, we’ll cover safe car buying tips.