Road travel is one of the deadliest ways humans get around. Every year, 1.35 million road fatalities are recorded, reports the Association for Safe International Travel. But for those of us who constantly seek the rush of a high-octane joyride, this is no significant barrier. If you’re the type of thrill-seeker who’s been looking for a more hair-raising reason to take a road trip this year, check out this selection of some of the most dangerous roads in the entire world. They’re arranged according to level of lethality — do you have what it takes to make it to the end?
Level 1: The Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway
With one side overlooking the vast Atlantic all throughout, this 8.2km (around 5 miles) span of road was seemingly built more for the scenic view than anything else. The entire length of this winding, undulating road is frequently hammered by the frothy waves of the Norwegian Sea. This roller coaster ride of a road is built in one of the most turbulent — and most beautiful — places on Earth. What other road lets you witness whales breaching out of the steely blue waves of the North Atlantic?
If the vertigo and waves weren’t enough to shake you, the wind just might. With speeds exceeding 48kph (30mph), it’s hard not to get nervous once it starts to pick up. There are a number of stops along the whole thing, but between them lie long stretches of empty road, punctuated by the occasional motorist or group of fishermen casting their lines from the bridge. Less seasoned drivers are best advised to keep their eyes on the road when the weather starts getting rough. And you absolutely can get on the Atlanterhavsveien during inclement weather — the ocean road is open rain or shine. The reason the Atlantic Ocean Road is on level 1 is because fatal accidents are fairly uncommon on its serpentine path. It still requires fairly good driving skills, and even veteran drivers will be put to the test. But your reward for braving this maelstrom is one of the most picturesque drives in all the world.
Level 2: US Route 175
On the surface, US Route 175 looks just like any other American state highway, but don’t be fooled. This 111-mile (178 km) stretch of road is one of the deadliest in Texas, and one of most fatal thoroughfares in the United States as a whole. Every year, an estimated 0.7 fatalities occur per mile, with nearly half of those occurring near Dallas. The highway is so infamous for this that local law firms all agree that US 175 is a top death highway in Texas, and anyone who uses it regularly would do well to keep their attorneys on speed dial. If you ever decide to traverse this deceptively ordinary highway, you’d be best served to do the same.
US Highway 175 doesn’t have too many quirks or environmental hazards, but being on one of the deadliest roads in the United States is a thrill in itself. Death lurks at every turn, and if you’re not careful, it can blindside you when you least expect. The odds aren’t too high that you’ll have to rely on your twitch reflexes to dodge a Ford F-250 that suddenly comes side-skidding from out of nowhere, but the danger is there.
Level 3: The Amur-Yakutsk Highway
This highway is rife with barriers to everyone that isn’t a local — or at least, everyone who doesn’t have enough heart, and cold resistance, to pass through. It is completely unpaved all throughout, and that alone should tell you how inhospitable it is. Plus, it runs through Siberia, a land famous for its harsh tundra climate. In fact, some of the coldest temperature readings on Earth, outside of Antarctica, were recorded on this road. It runs for over 1200 kilometers (754 miles), so you may want to merge into it a little nearer to either end.
These unforgiving conditions are the biggest challenges presented by the Amur-Yakutsk Highway. Winters can be so freezing that metal starts to stick to your skin. This cold only lets up when the highway crosses the occasional desert landscape. If you don’t like the cold, the alternative is travelling the highway in the summer, when you have mud that can swallow entire cars to deal with. In the heat or cold, this road tests your survival skills as much as your driving skills. To reach the end alive, you’ll have to pack heavy on gear and supplies, and be experienced enough to traverse precipitous mountain roads, manage forested paths, forge through deserts, and dodge quagmires.
Level 4: The Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Like any road built on the side of a mountain, the Sichuan-Tibet Highway requires you to make like a mountain goat, gritting your teeth and inching upwards with your every fiber. The trip through all 2,142 kilometers (1330 miles) of this jagged path often takes travellers 15 days to finish. It carries all of the challenges you would expect of a highway that rises up to a dizzying 2000 meters above sea level. Rockfalls, landslides, and nerve-wracking dropoffs.
Before you even get to the end however, you will be rewarded with one of the most spectacular mountain views on the planet. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway takes you right into the roof of the world. This road offers one of the highest altitudes you can achieve in an automobile, and a journey reserved for drivers with adamantine nerves. The trip is arduous, but the reward is tremendous to match.
Each road comes with its own set of hazards and merits. An adventurous soul that can’t tell the difference is a unique breed indeed. But however much danger you can handle, what’s important is that you’re having a fulfilling journey. After all, as we’ve all probably heard, the journey is the real reward.