Motorists sometimes see roads which have been identified as among the most dangerous in the world as a kind of challenge. These roads are an opportunity to travel, sometimes to remote and far-flung areas of the globe, to put driving skills to the test and often to see if drivers have a head for some pretty dizzying heights.
To get a glimpse of the tourism potential of these treacherous routes, you only have to look at how often the Top Gear team of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond have traveled to South America, Africa, and Asia to travel some of the most dangerous roads in the world in the name of television entertainment.
And yet, for ordinary people who live in the areas where these roads are located, the routes which visitors see as a fun challenge are actually vital transport links connecting their towns and villages with family and services like schools and hospitals. These often tiny and winding roads have to accommodate buses and even trucks. How else are the vital supplies meant to get to their destination without truckers?
Trucking is a dangerous profession at the best of times, but when truckers are traveling the dangerous roads on this list, accidents or injuries become even more likely. Anyone traveling these routes as a tourist should remember that they are also important routes used by truck drivers and locals on a daily basis.
25 Rohtang Pass, India
The Rohtang Pass is another road which passes through the Himalayas, this time on the Indian side of the mountain range, at a height of up to 13,000 feet in some places. Closed for several months of the year, the road is considered so dangerous that the Indian government is spending millions of dollars to build a new five-mile tunnel to replace the current precarious route. It is the only road into the Lahaul Valley, which is cut off from the rest of the world when the road is closed in winter. Traffic jams of trucks, buses, locals, and tourists often make the Rohtang Pass even more lethal when the road is open during the summer.
24 Yungas Road, Bolivia
The Yungas Road in Bolivia is infamous thanks to a Top Gear special which saw the presenters take their lives into the hands to tackle this narrow, twisting and very, very high route.
Several viral clips have surfaced showing near-misses or accidents involving trucks and buses which seem far too big and unwieldy to travel the route safely.
Travel the route they must, however, as the Yungas Road is the only way to get to the remote town of Coroico from the capital, La Paz, and truckers simply have to try and get through with food and other supplies, regardless of the danger.
23 Stelvio Pass, Italy
The Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps is like a European version of Los Caracoles. It's a tight and twisty road which climbs to the top of a peak on the border with Switzerland.
It is the second highest pass in the Alps, rising to an altitude of 9,000 feet, but it is the dizzying hairpin bends which make the Stelvio Pass such a dangerous stretch of Alpine road.
It is a popular cycling spot, with cyclists either enjoying the challenge of climbing the slope or enjoying the much easier rode down, but it is also an important route for truckers, who need to take it easy on the way up and the way down.
22 Jalalabad to Kabul, Afghanistan
It is hardly surprising that a road which runs through Afghanistan is going to be on a list of the most dangerous roads in the world for truckers given the country’s turbulent past. The route which runs between the capital Kabul and Jalalabad in the east of the country, close to the Pakistan border, is certainly one of the most treacherous. A vital supply road for smaller towns and villages along the 90-mile A01 national highway, drivers have to wend their way through the high and steep Kabul River gorge for 40 miles, often driving at dangerously fast speeds.
21 Halsema Highway, Philippines
Running through some of the remotest areas of the Philippines between Baguio City and Bontoc, the Halsema Highway is well-used by local truckers taking goods to mountain towns and villages.
Driving a truck along this steep and winding route in the appropriately-named Mountain Province is a real challenge, with hairpin bends and vertical drops of 1,000 feet, all mostly without any guardrails in place.
Wet weather in the monsoon season can also cause floods and mudslides in the area, making the route even more treacherous than usual, while recent improvements to the road surface have only encouraged truckers and bus drivers to drive faster.
20 Sichuan to Tibet Highway, China
The views along the stunning Sichuan to Tibet Highway in China attracts tourists from all over the world, much to the annoyance of the truck drivers who actually need to travel the route in order to earn a living!
They’re too busy concentrating on keeping their big rigs safely on the road to enjoy the spectacular panoramas across the Himalayas.
The highway passes over 14 high mountain peaks, hugging vertiginous rocky cliffs, and crosses several major rivers. It is especially famous for making a dizzying 99 switchbacks on a 24-mile stretch from the peak of the Yela Mountain to a rickety bridge almost 4,000-feet below.
19 Zojila Pass, India
We're back to the Himalayas for the next most dangerous trucking road, the Zojila Pass on the Indian side of the mountain range. This narrow and twisting road climbs to an altitude of 11,500-feet, yet the Indian government didn’t feel the need to put protective guardrails in place to stop truckers, bus drivers, locals, and tourists from plummeting thousands of feet down the mountainside! Enclosed by the Kashmir valley on one side and Drass valley on the other, this hazardous route is the only way to get to the remote village of Ladakh, but even this road can be closed for months during the winter, cutting the village off from the rest of the world.
18 Fairy Meadows Road, Pakistan
Fairy Meadows Road sounds like an idyllic country lane which should wind its way through the gentle English countryside. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It is actually a 10-mile unpaved track high in the western Himalayas of Pakistan. Accessed from the Karakoram Highway, which has already featured in this list, the route is used by local truck drivers to get to remote villages in the area, despite the fact that road is barely wide enough for a Jeep in some places. The route is only open in the summer when it is also busy with climbers heading to the Nanga Parbat base camp, the ninth highest mountain in the world.
17 Las Caracoles, Chile
Part of the Paso de Los Libertadores, the vital route across the Andes on the Chile-Argentina border, Los Caracoles is one of the most stunning yet treacherous stretches of road in South America, and it is up against some pretty stiff competition! Los Caracoles is called the Snail’s Pass in English, and it is easy to see why when you see the steep and twisting hairpin bends climbing the peak, which look just like the pattern on a snail shell. As the main route between the two countries, it is an important transport link for truckers, who have to be sure to take their time on this challenging pass.
16 Dalton Highway, Alaska
Not only one of the most dangerous roads for truckers, but also one of the most famous trucking roads, the Dalton Highway is a 414-mile road running from Fairbanks to Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay. The bay is the center of Alaska’s oil production, and the industry needs to be restocked with supplies and equipment throughout the year, despite the fact that Dalton Highway is covered with snow and ice throughout much of the year. The dangers of driving the highway have even spawned a TV show, Ice Road Truckers, showing the trials and tribulations of driving this extraordinary highway in such extraordinary conditions.
15 Karnali Highway, Nepal
The Karnali Highway is one of the most important transport links in Nepal. Given that the country is nestled in the Himalayan mountain range, it won’t be a surprise to learn that the Karnali Highway itself is located at a high altitude, and this means that the road is frequently closed by bad weather, and is regularly affected by floods, mudslides, and rock falls as a result. However, the road is also the only link between the towns of Surkhet and Jumla and continues on to the smaller villages of Nagma and Talcha as a winding dirt track. Regardless, it is regularly used by buses and trucks.
14 Federal Highway 1, Mexico
Also known as the Benito Juarez Transpeninsular Highway, Federal Highway 1 in Mexico is poses a danger to truckers for a very different reason. The route runs from the border town of Tijuana, south through Baja California to La Paz, which is located at almost the southernmost tip of the peninsula. As well as being a narrow and rough road, often without guardrails despite running along high clifftops, this route, along with many others in Mexico, is also infamous for the robbers which roam its length, often picking on truckers (as well as tourists) as the most lucrative vehicles to steal from.
13 Uspallata Pass, Chile to Argentina
The Andes may not be as high as the Himalayas, but they are just as challenging for truck drivers trying to make their way across the border between Argentina and Chile. The Uspallata Pass is one of the roads which winds its way through the mountains between the two countries, just east of the Chilean capital of Santiago. Climbing to a height of over 12,500 feet, the road is often impassable in winter because of snow and ice, with temperatures falling as low as -30°C. Even in the summer months, truckers have to deal with tourist traffic visiting the nearby Christ the Redeemer of the Andes statue, along with 15% inclines and 65 steep hairpin turns.
12 I-10, Alabama
Truckers don’t have to be in far-flung locations or high in some of the world’s most challenging mountains to be in danger behind the wheel. Trucking is one of the most dangerous professions in the world, and even interstates and highways in the US can pose a risk to those behind the wheel of eighteen-wheelers. One of the most dangerous roads in the States for truckers is the I-10 in Alabama, according to data collected between 2013 and 2016. According to the study, which focused on the increase in traffic over the holiday season, the number of vehicles on the I-10 increased significantly, making accidents more likely.
11 Trans-Siberian Highway, Russia
The Trans-Siberian Railway is famous all around the world as one of the most spectacular train journeys you can take, but not so many people are aware that there is also a Trans-Siberian highway, a network of roads which create an important transport link from the Baltic Sea on Russia's west coast to the country’s east coast on the Pacific Ocean. In parts, this Trans-Siberian highway is little more than a dirt track, particularly between Chita and Khabarovsk. Although there have been improvements in recent years, the original road here was built by gulag inmates in the 1940s.
10 A537, United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is another country where you might not expect to find difficult, challenging or downright dangerous roads, but the stretch of the A537 which runs between Macclesfield and Buxton in the Peak District was named as the country’s most dangerous route in 2017.
An east-west road regularly used by truckers, there were 33 fatal accidents on this short eight-mile stretch in the five years from 2010 to 2015.
Known locally as the Cat and Fiddle, this part of the A537 has also been nicknamed the “widow maker” because of its bad reputation for serious collisions on the tight and twisting route.
9 Karakoram Highway, Pakistan to China
The Karakoram Highway, which runs between Pakistan and China, is not only a dangerous road but also one that is hugely significant in geopolitical terms. The 800-mile road took 27 years to complete, between 1959 and 1986, costing the lives of 810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers in the process. It is thought to be the highest paved road in the world, running through the Khunjerab Pass at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet. Aside from dealing with heavy snowfalls in the winter months, truckers traveling between the two countries also have to deal with altitude sickness, not to mention the effects that such heights can have on their vehicles.
8 Nairobi - Nakuru Highway, Kenya
Officially the A104, the highway which runs for nearly 100 miles between the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the city of Nakuru has been the scene of thousands of accidents in recent years, many caused by pedestrians wandering across the carriageway or by the lack of a central reservation, increasing the risk of head-on collisions. Approximately 320 pedestrians died in one year alone after trying to cross the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway on foot. In a bid to make the road safer, the Kenyan government repaved the A104, but this has only had the effect of encouraging drivers to travel much faster than they did before!
7 Bruce Highway, Australia
There is a lot of open space in Australia and the desolate Outback, as it is called locally, with long stretches of empty highways often providing the only connection between the cities on the coast and the small, remote inland communities. However, it is one of the coastal roads which is one of the most dangerous in the country, the Bruce Highway between Cairns and Brisbane. Despite being in one of the busiest areas of the country for truckers and tourists, much of the highway is a single carriageway, prompting many impatient drivers to engage in dangerous and illegal overtaking maneuvers.
6 BR-116, Brazil
The BR-116 is the ultimate trucking route in Brazil, running north to south along the coastline, and has the highest concentration of big rigs on it at any given moment. Rules for truckers in the country are not as strict as they are in the US, and many will drive for 18 hours or more in a single day just to make their deliveries on schedule. Tired truckers and a poorly-maintained road surface are a bad combination and the route is the scene of dozens of accidents every week. The area is rife with criminal activity, too, putting truckers at risk of being robbed or worse.
5 HWY-75, Idaho
Highway 75 is one of Idaho’s busiest tourist routes, traveling through the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and passing over the Galena Summit at an altitude of over 8,000 feet. In the summer months and during the holidays, traffic on this winding route increases dramatically, making the route more dangerous for everyone, including truckers who are simply trying to get their job done, transporting goods from Shoshone in the south to Challis in the north of the state. This mountainous route also has a lot of rock falls, which adds to the danger of traveling along this scenic road.
4 Ruwaished Highway, Jordan
Although Jordan is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, it does share a border with one of the most turbulent states, Iraq. And worse than that, the border Jordan borders an area of Iraq controlled by ISIL. The Ruwaished Highway, which runs from Jordan to the Iraqi capital Baghdad used to be one of the busiest trucking routes in the Middle East, but the area has become too dangerous for many truck drivers to even consider making the journey, and the road itself is in a terrible condition. Some truckers are still willing to make the run, despite the dangers, because of the incredible amounts of money to be made.
3 Pan-American Highway
Running for 19,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of Chile, the Pan-American Highway is, like the Trans-Siberian road, a network of interstates, highways, and other roads which form an almost unbroken route through the Americas.
The only gap is in Panama, where the 100-mile Darien Gap creates a natural barrier.
Some stretches of the road are poorly maintained and exceedingly busy, creating a hazard to truckers, drivers, and pedestrians alike, and there are remote areas where farm animals can even wander onto the carriageway or where robbers could be lurking in the forests.
2 I-95, Florida
One of the busiest interstates in the US, I-95 can pose a real danger to truck drivers when traffic is heavy or when they are traveling at night. The interstate runs the entire length of the US east coast, from Maine to Florida.
There are issues along the whole length of the route, where traffic can be particularly heavy, but the I-95 in Florida has been found to be an especially treacherous stretch of road.
In fact, it has been named the fifth most dangerous highway in the whole country, with 165 traffic fatalities between 2011 and 2015 on the 132-mile route.
1 N2, South Africa
One of the most important routes in South Africa, the N2 highway runs between the country’s two main cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town. It is a key route for truckers running goods throughout the eastern area of the country. The N2 made it onto a list of the world’s most dangerous roads because of the high accident rate on the route, mainly attributed to speeding, careless drivers, and drunk driving. There are several stretches of hairpin bends climbing mountainous areas in the country, with barrier lines that seem to be optional to many local drivers, and a distinct lack of guardrails despite the steep drops.
Sources: Dangerousroads, chaptertravel, BBC, and wheels24