Buckle up! Traversing America’s diverse network of highways and byways by car is practically a national pastime, but some drives should come with a serious white-knuckle alert. So before you head out on these 4 scary stretches of pavement, put your distractions aside, keep your eyes on the road, and hold on tight.
1. State Route 138 in California
With terrifying nicknames like “Blood Alley” and “Death Road,” you’d be wise to take it slow should you ever find yourself navigating California’s Highway 138, which takes you from mountainous Interstate 15 in the San Gabriel Mountains to Palmdale. With much of the drive occurring on a twisting, undivided 2-lane highway with narrow shoulders and steep drop-offs, parts of this drive have become positively notorious for deadly head-on collisions.
Driving tip: Use turnout areas on narrow roads.
When driving windy and narrow 2-lane roads, remember to use turnout areas to allow faster vehicles to pass you safely.
2. Highway 550 in Colorado
Built in the late 1880s and known as the “Million Dollar Highway,” this treacherous 25-mile stretch of road ascends from Ouray to the summit of Red Mountain Pass in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. With narrow lanes, steep inclines, hairpin turns, dangerous drop-offs, and few guardrails or usable shoulders, this drive is a risky proposition even in the best conditions (snow and avalanche debris become another hazard, starting in October).
Driving tip: Use low gears.
When driving down steep mountain roads, use low gears (1, 2, or L). Engine braking will slow your car and can save your brakes from burning out or overheating.
3. U.S. Highway 1 in Florida
According to a 2017 report that analyzed crash and fatalities data from the NHTSA, Florida’s 545 miles of U.S. Highway 1 holds the dubious distinction of “Most Dangerous Road in America.” Over the last decade, this expanse of highway, which winds through 13 counties along Florida’s eastern coast (its most southernly 113 miles is known as the “Overseas Highway” and includes a spectacular series of bridges and roadway that spans the Florida Keys), has accounted for more than 1,000 fatalities.
Driving tip: Focus on the road (no matter what).
Gazing out the window or abruptly braking to take in the scenery (no matter how incredible) is a form of distracted driving and can have deadly consequences. Stay focused on the road in front of you and wait for designated scenic lookout areas that allow you to park before sightseeing.
4. Highway 2 in Montana
Although this rural road (which runs through Montana from the North Dakota to Iowa borders) sees far less traffic than most major urban highways, it’s still known as one of the country’s most dangerous roads. With little to see, and much of the road spanning rural areas, drivers tend to put the pedal to the proverbial metal. With remote crash locations, receiving ambulance and critical care services can take longer — upwards of 80 minutes on average.
Driving tip: Use cruise control to maintain safe speeds.
It can be easy to lose track of your speed when driving on a highway with little traffic and not much to see. Set your cruise control to a safe and legal speed and stay alert behind the wheel. And make sure you’re up-to-speed on all the in-car components that could distract you behind the wheel.