While it may be hard to believe, the amount of fatal traffic accidents in North America is much lower than it was decades ago. With better safety standards, improved road conditions, and new technologies like speed cameras and radar, America’s highways are safer than they’ve ever been. Despite this, road accidents are still a common problem in society. Even with all the advancements we’ve seen, traffic accidents are still a looming threat, and there are some roads that are disproportionately more dangerous than others.
So buckle up, turn on the headlights, and grip the steering wheel for dear life, because we’re about to take a road trip through 10 of the most dangerous roads in North America.
10 Interstate 495 In Maryland
Also called the Capitol Beltway, I-495 surrounds Washington DC in a loop that cuts through Maryland and Virginia. While not as deadly as some of the other roads on this list, its use as one of the main access points into DC has made it one of the most congested routes in the nation. Traffic accidents are particularly common along the northern stretch of the road, near Bethesda, Maryland, which is also where the most fatalities usually occur.
9 US Route 2 In Montana
Route 2 stretches from coast-to-coast, and portions of it are known to be particularly dangerous. The part that stretches through Montana is perhaps the most dangerous of them all, due to its isolation and long stretches of road with little to no towns in between.
It’s easy to get stranded, especially in the more remote areas, where help isn’t easily accessible. The 70 mph (113 kmh) speed limit doesn’t make things any easier, making fatalities more likely.
8 Interstate 285 In Atlanta
A major commuter route into Atlanta, Georgia, I-285 gets extremely congested during morning and afternoon rush hour. A wide road with multiple on and off ramps, 285 gets clogged regularly. It doesn’t help either that the route is popular with truckers, who often have to share the road with commuters on their way to work. Fatalities on this stretch are higher than anywhere else on I-285, and it is a contributing factor to Atlanta’s ongoing traffic problems
7 US Route 550 In Colorado
Known colloquially as the Million Dollar Highway, this stretch of mountainous road is anything but. A nightmare for anyone with a fear of heights, the narrow, two lane road winds through the heart of the Colorado Rockies.
Much of the road has a steep drop to its left. And with no guard rails, its frighteningly easy for someone to drive off the road and fall to their deaths. Drivers also have to contend with falling rocks, and everyone except the bravest should avoid it in the dead of winter.
6 Interstate 15 In Nevada
While it’s only a small section of the larger I-15, the part that goes through Nevada is one of the deadliest stretches of highway in America. Smack dab in the middle of the desert, without much in the way of amenities, the stretch is a terrible place to get stranded. A full tank of gas and a jug of water are advised while attempting to traverse this hellish expanse, which has taken the lives of thousands of motorists in the last decade.
5 California State Route 99
The deadliest state route in the nation, route 99 has an unusually high fatality rate. Cutting right through California’s Central Valley, the route provides access for some of the state’s largest cities, including Modesto, Fresno, and the state’s capital Sacramento.
Further complicating matters is that the road provides direct access to drivers going to the Pacific Northwest, making it a popular trucking route. With so many people using the road daily, and the fact that California is the nation’s most populous state, it’s no wonder Route 99 has earned such a nasty reputation.
4 US Route 1 In Florida
A recent study by a site called Geotab named Florida’s stretch of US Route 1 the deadliest highway in the United States. Thousands of motorists have died on this stretch, which runs along the east coast of the state and all the way down to Key West. It is the only major expressway that connects the Keys with the rest of Florida, which, combined with tourist traffic, commuters, and truckers, makes for a complicated situation that often ends in disaster.
3 James W. Dalton Highway In Alaska
Fans of Ice Road Truckers will recognize Dalton Highway as one of the show’s frequently traveled routes. While not nearly as heavily trafficked as other highways on this list, it’s one of the most unforgiving roads on earth. Located near Fairbanks, the highway cuts north through the center of Alaska’s treacherous wilderness, and ends at Prundhoe Bay on the northern coast. Parts of the highway are not paved, while certain areas are prone to avalanches. With very few towns scattered along the four-hundred plus mile road, the risk of running out of gas is high, and its isolation means that police are rarely able to get to an accident in time, if at all.
2 Mexican Federal Highway 101
Spanning the entire length of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi, Highway 101 connects the city of Victoria to San Fernando. It also has the unflattering distinction of being a favorite route of passage for drug cartels, who patrol stretches of the road and often target civilians passing through. Carjacking is common, as are gruesome murders and executions carried out by local drug lords.
The situation has become so toxic that most people are advised to only travel if their car is armored. Police along the highway will sometimes provide escorts for individuals who need to use the road, but for those who lack such options, traveling on highway 101 can be a matter of life or death.
1 Ontario Highway 401
Some estimates have listed the 401 as not only the busiest highway in Canada, but the busiest in all of North America. A wide thoroughfare with multiple lanes, 401 connects Montreal and Ottawa to Toronto, and runs parallel to the US border. Because of how vital it is to Canadian motorists, the risk of accidents is unfortunately high. The 401 has witnessed some of the worst pileups in Canadian history, including one in 1999 that involved over 87 cars. Parts of the road are inaccessible during the winter, causing congestion, and it’s no surprise that winter is the 401’s deadliest season. But regardless of the winter, any small mishap on the 401 could snowball into a catastrophize that could bring eastern Canada to a standstill.