A great many Americans took to the road this past Thanksgiving, and it’s likely as many will traverse the U.S. by year’s end, whether for family gatherings or well-earned vacations. We won’t rehash the usual winter travel recommendations, but will rather warn travelers to take extra precautions when encountering the most hazardous stretches of road in the nation according to the AAA Northeast.
These havens of motoring mayhem go far beyond the usual ill-conceived interchange or too-sudden stop signs. No, these are the stretches of road in both busy and remote parts of the country that rack up a noteworthy number of fatalities each year. But as it turns out, the full blame should not to the roads, but to the drivers for engaging in dangerous or distracted driving.
Here’s the list of roads the AAA says warrant particular precautions, especially for year-end road-trippers:
Route 1, Florida
The AAA notes that Florida is one of a number of states that has yet to enact a full ban on using handheld devices while behind the wheel, which automatically raises the bar for distracted driving. Route 1, of which a stretch runs through the Sunshine State, ups the ante with a mostly straight route up the state’s east coast, which practically begs aggressive drivers with horsepower-packed vehicles to exceed the speed limit. What’s more, some drivers can find the extensive bridges connecting the peninsula to the Florida Keys unnerving.
Route 17, South Carolina
While this is a truly gorgeous stretch of road, it’s also among the most perilous, with an abundance of sudden curves, narrow lanes, and the occasional wildlife crossing.
This highway runs through Orlando, which means it tends to be populated by rental-car drivers with kids hopped up in anticipation of meeting Mickey Mouse. That’s a recipe for distracted driving.
This highway is among the longest in the U.S., running from Florida to California, with the 300-mile section that runs through Arizona being the deadliest, with extensive straightaways those with a need for speed tend to exploit.
I-15, California to Nevada
This thoroughfare connects Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and it’s largely filled with gamblers dreaming of big winnings on the way east, and disappointed losers on the way back, often driving under the influence. It’s also populated by lead-footed drivers taking advantage of the long stretches of largely open roads to push their cars to the limit.
Excessive traffic congestion on this highway that connects Galveston to Dallas is the culprit here. A recent study found the highway suffers, on average, 56.5 traffic fatalities per 100 miles of road.
This 64-mile highway loop suffers severe congestion, especially with regard to big-rig trucks, and confounds motorists with its sharp curves and complex interchanges.
Dalton Highway, Alaska
Those who watch TV’s Ice Road Truckers should be familiar with this stretch of dirt and gravel that negotiates terrifying terrain from Fairbanks to Deadhorse and includes a 240-mile section that’s devoid of rest stops or gas stations. And then there’s the weather and winter’s virtually around-the-clock darkness to consider.
Highway 2, Montana
This scenic open road that extends east-to-west through remote parts of the Treasure State has a posted, though often perilously ignored, 70 mph speed limit.
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, Louisiana
Those headed south to New Orleans will encounter this 24-mile-long bridge, with many motorists certain to be shaken and perhaps even stirred by the half-hour trip over nothing but water. At the mid-point, terra firma becomes all but out of view. Occasional fog makes the trip especially hazardous.
Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
This road is likely to be on enthusiasts’ lists of the most entertaining roads to drive, with its stunning views of the San Juan mountains. Unfortunately, its steep cliffs and hairpin turns –all without guardrails—can prove to be unsettling to casual motorists. The occasional rock slide and inclement Colorado weather can make this a true white-knuckle ride.
Road to Hana, Hawaii
There’s no more beautiful thoroughfare than this 52-mile motorway that stretches along Maui from Kahului to Hana. It’s also among the most challenging, with 620 sharp turns and 59 too-narrow bridges that can test the mettle of even the most accomplished drivers.