Top 10 Most Dangerous Roads in California
From winding canyon and beach roads to stretches of incredibly dense population and the infamous gauntlet running to and from Sin City, there is plenty to be wary of when driving in the Golden State. In fact, data from a recent report using the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows 6 highways in California are among the top 50 most dangerous roads for car accidents in the entire United States.
The car accident lawyers at The Montana Advocates have compiled the top 10 most dangerous roads in California.
#10 Most Dangerous California Road: SR-2 Beautiful, but Treacherous
Spanning only 87 miles SR-2 climbs west through the San Gabriel Mountains from La Canada Flintridge. East of San Bernardino County the SR-2 is known as the Angeles Crest Scenic Byway. The road rises over 6,400 feet eventually passing through Dawson’s Saddle at 7,901 feet. This state route averaged a fatal accident every 1.6 miles mostly due to the eastern part, made up of treacherous switchbacks and blind curves. With totals of nearly 50 fatalities in 7 years, it may not seem like much compared to the I-5 masses, but when looked at in traffic volume versus accidents, it remains a very dangerous road for fatal car accidents. While the many lookouts and vistas along this route are breathtaking, they are not without their risks. Drive this road with caution and avoid it all together during stretches of bad weather.
#9 Most Dangerous California Road: US 101 Dangerous Legend
Mentioned in a number of hit songs over the years, and winding its way past renowned coastal views, is the 808 miles of US 101. Also boasting the busiest freeway interchange in the world at its southern terminus in Los Angeles and the northern gateway to Silicon Valley from San Francisco, it’s easy to see why this road gets so much traffic. The amazing views are truly remarkable but this stretch of road is also a magnet for fatal car accidents. Averaging a fatality for every 1.3 miles over 7 years puts it near the top of the list of most dangerous highways found anywhere. Somewhat ironically, the average wait for emergency services on this road is among the lowest in the nation, averaging only a 4-minute delay. Both congestion and terrain contribute to the dangerous nature of this road. Avoid traveling on the busiest day of the week, Wednesday, as well as during the commuter hours from 8-9 a.m. and 6-7 p.m.
#8 Most Dangerous California Road: I-8 Rugged Gateway to the Southwest
Running from San Diego over the Colorado River near Yuma and then on to Casa Grande, this highway is known as the Border Friendship Route. The Devils Canyon and In-Ko-Pah Gorge section east of San Diego is known for its extreme winds. Gusts can reach upwards of 100 mph and can periodically cause road closures. Use caution driving near the Interior Border Checkpoint by Alpine as a number of accidents have resulted from smugglers driving at high speeds on the wrong side of the road to avoid the checkpoint. The 171-mile stretch on the California side has racked up 134 fatalities in 7 years averaging a fatality every 1.2 miles. Double check road conditions before heading out and exercise caution in the mountain and valley areas.
#7 Most Dangerous California Road: SR-99 Perilous Passage
Composed of 424 miles passing all the way through Center Valley, The Golden State Highway connects rural communities up north to several densely populated eastern areas of the valley. Many blame the dark unlit roads in rural areas and drunk drivers for the startling mortality statistics. The portion of the highway passing through Fresno took first place on the 2018 list for the deadliest 100-mile stretch of highway in the entire country. As a whole, SR-99 had 411 fatalities from 461 accidents over a 7-year span-averaging nearly a fatality for each mile. Avoid traveling through the rural areas at night and carefully choose times to pass through the heavily populated areas.
#6 Most Dangerous California Road: SR-78 Mountain Route
The SR-78 stretches 215 miles from Oceanside to Blythe. Servicing the heavily populated areas of northern San Diego County before heading up into the Cuyamaca Mountains, it winds through Witch Creek and on through Julian. The grade on Banner Hill is a well-known area of concern as are the mountain sections in general. With 62 fatalities in 7 years, it averages a little more than one fatality per three miles. It’s always important to make sure your car’s brakes and other safety features are in good condition when planning a trip, especially when traversing difficult terrain.
#5 Most Dangerous California Road: I-15 Gateway to Sin City
More than 8 million people annually make the 181-mile trip passing through San Bernardino County on their way to and from Las Vegas. The road itself is mostly straight with little terrain or distractions and perhaps this is exactly what lures drivers into high speed or distracted driving. Both AAA and commercial truck drivers have said they feel excessive speeding and driver impairment or distraction plays a role in the many fatal car accidents. Despite the known dangers here, a federal study found that half of fatalities on this section of road were people not wearing seat belts. Recent road improvements have increased safety but a 15-year study showed 1,069 fatalities from 834 car accidents. Drive smart; stay defensive, and buckle up!
#4 Most Dangerous California Road: I-40 Commuter Peril
This major interstate crosses the entire nation ending in North Carolina and the road out west often parallels Route 66. The California portion known as the Needles Freeway spans 154 miles from Barstow through the Mojave Desert on its way to Needles, a small town on the banks of the Colorado River. Part of its colorful history includes an infamous proposal in the 60s to detonate 22 nuclear explosions to cut a more direct path through the Bristol Mountains. Frequent construction addressing the deteriorating condition of the road has not slowed the flow of car accidents. A heavily traveled commuter route, this road is well-known for becoming slick in both the rain and the heat. Add in the heavy semi-truck traffic, and it’s easy to see why this road generates so many car accidents.
#3 Most Dangerous California Road: SR-62 Desolate and Dangerous
Boasting one of the most remote stretches of highway in the state, SR-62 crosses 151 miles starting northwest of Palm Springs, and ending at the Arizona border after passing along the northern edge of Joshua Tree State Park. A sign east of the city Twentynine Palms warns of no services for 100 miles. Officials state the lack of medians lead to drivers dangerously turning across oncoming traffic at precarious spots. They also say the east-west orientation puts the sun directly in the eyes of drivers at sunrise and sunset as a contributing factor to the number of deadly car accidents during certain times of year. Be sure to gas up and don’t forget your sunglasses.
#2 Most Dangerous California Road: SR-86 Notorious Passage
Stretching 90 miles from the Mexican border crossing at Calexico SR-86 heads north to Indio passing through the Imperial Valley west of the Salton Sea into the Coachella Valley. Originally just a 2-lane highway, easy access from rural roads led to many fatal car accidents, earning SR-86 a dubious reputation. Recent improvements have made it a 4-lane highway but has not stopped the steady flow of accidents. Being dubbed a NAFTA highway due to its heavy traffic from trucks and semis contributes to the overall danger. Stay alert around the semi-trucks and watch for side traffic entering or exiting.
#1 Most Dangerous California Road: I-5 Fatal Corridor
Perennially on a number of lists for Deadliest Roads are the 796 miles of I-5 stretching from Mexico to Oregon. The sheer volume of fatalities on this roadway clearly puts it at the head of its unfortunate class. In a 7-year period a fatal accident occurred on average almost every mile amassing over 700 fatalities in total. The most dangerous section passes through Los Angeles County where traffic density spikes. Large numbers of semi-trucks and drivers speeding to their destination contribute greatly to the risks. Add in that Los Angeles is known as the #1 city for road rage and you truly have a maelstrom brewing. Approach traveling anywhere on I-5 with caution, especially in Los Angeles. Avoid driving tired or distracted and plan to sidestep peak hours.
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