Bolivia’s North Jungas Road, also known as “The Road of Death,” was named the world’s most dangerous road in 1995. (Photo: Szymon Kochański / Flickr)
Whether you happen to be a thrill-seeking car enthusiast or a cautious traveler prone to carsickness, knowing what to expect on your upcoming commute is essential. Driving in foreign countries — where highway laws, motorist behavior and vehicle types can be remarkably different from those at home — often involves a strange mixture of terror and excitement.
If you are thinking of driving a van or other large vehicle, just remember many of these narrow roads pose more hazards to large vehicles. Make sure you have your van insurance — or maybe even life insurance.
As any traveler who has ever sped through Saigon’s impossibly dense motorcycle traffic, wove in a rainstorm with three people on a scooter through an uproar of horns on a night in Phuket or rushed into head-on traffic on a dirt road in Jaipur can attest — dangerous roads can be found all over the globe.
But these 5 roads stand out as the most perilous of all. Here’s why:
- 1. North Jungas Road, Bolivia: Also popularly known as “The Road of Death,” this vertiginous 38-mile, high-altitude highway has no guardrails to protect against the 2,000-foot sheer drops that skirt its edges. Connecting La Paz and Coroico in the Amazon region, it was named in 1995 by the Inter-American Development Bank as the world’s most dangerous road. Estimates put annual deaths between 200-300; and countless white crosses dot the roadside where cars have fallen into the jungle below.
Highway 1 in Afghanistan is among the most dangerous roads in the world. (Photo: Bryan Dorrough / Flickr)
2. Highway 1, Afghanistan: Linking Jalalabad to Kabul, this sinuous Afghani road spans nearly 40 miles and is known for its perilously narrow mountain passes and drop-offs that fall nearly 1,968 feet into the Kabul gorge below. Drivers in the region are known for recklessly overtaking the numerous overburdened haulage trucks and donkey caravans that meander along the highway, and the Taliban-controlled region is notoriously unfriendly toward foreigners. One recent estimate says the road claims an average of at least one life every day.
- 3. James Dalton Highway, Alaska: Stretching from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean, Alaska’s James Dalton Highway is arguably the most isolated roadway in the U.S. With only three towns along its 414-mile route (all of which have permanent populations of less than 25), fuel is scarce, road and weather conditions are terrible and one in 50 motorcycles who travel the road crash. Steep climbs, deep potholes, icy asphalt and daunting remoteness all make the James Dalton a remarkably treacherous highway.
- 4. Commonwealth Avenue, Philippines: Though neither remote nor high altitude, Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City is undeniably a killer road. With an estimated three to five accidents per day, the road is a nightmare of reckless traffic. Public transportation vehicles are notorious for fast and careless driving, the road has no streetlights and there is a conspicuous absence of road signs and designated motorcycle/bicycle lanes.
- 5. The Russian Federal Highway: Between Moscow and Yakutsk, the region spanned by the Russian Federal Highway once recorded the coldest temperature in the world outside Antarctica. The frozen ground and continuous permafrost prevent paving, and during the 10-month-long Siberian winters, ice and snow plague the route. In July and August, however, things get even worse, as deep mud causes traffic jams numbering thousands of vehicles. And in a region known for highway robberies, kidnappings and beatings, this is not a good place to be stuck in a jam.
There are few places in the world where getting from point A to point B is as treacherous as it is on these five remarkable roads. And most of those journeys involve high-altitude rock climbing, nearly impenetrable jungles and landmines.
So if you are thinking of going for a casual drive on one of the highways listed above, you probably ought to reconsider your travel plans. Then again, if you are out looking for a healthy dose of adrenaline and a bit of danger, buckle-up and have fun.
Editor’s note: For a video of some of these roads, check out “Craziest Roads in the World” on the Roadologist blog.
About the author: With a passion for transport and travel, Daniel Kendal has seen for himself some of these dangerous roads.