The American song “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf talks about the joys of the open road and the experience of the Great American Roadtrip – “Get your motor runnin’ Head out on the highway Lookin’ for adventure And whatever comes our way”. Well, that sounds nice but if you choose the wrong road, the thing that comes your way may be an 18-wheeler, skidding out of control and pushing you over the edge of a canyon. Obviously, some highways are straight and glorious, but equally some are twisty and perilous. Driving on those can be an extreme sport, as we find out in our Top 10 Most Dangerous Highways in America.
10. Interstate-12, LA
Despite being called an Interstate, I-12 is entirely contained within the state of Louisiana. Its 85 miles go from Baton Rouge to Slidell, and the eastern direction coming out of Baton Rouge is particularly notorious for accidents. The communications director for Driving Louisiana Forward described the road as one of the “deadliest” in Louisiana, thanks to the narrowing from 6 lanes to 4, causing bottlenecks and crashes, sadly resulting in a number of deaths.
Among the recent deaths have been Melvin Beecham, who died in a crash with an 18-wheeler and a van, and Terry Gerot, who ran into the back of a utility truck, which was itself protecting a broken-down car. Another victim of the road was 74-year-old Henry Conley, who drove off the road into a tree. All of these happened in the last three months – approach this road with caution!
9. Interstate-79, PA/WV
I-79, which runs from West Virginia to Pennsylvania, is another highway that has seen more than its share of accidents. Tragic incidents in West Virginia in March 2013 included a crash near Frametown, where 2 children died, and a 4AM crash in Harrison County that killed 2 teenagers. In both cases, the victims were not wearing seatbelts, prompting an appeal to young people to wear seatbelts. Although, its author being a wrongful death attorney would make the cynical doubt its sincerity.
The most dangerous part of the highway, however, is the intersection with I-70, where drivers are forced to make a tight U if they’re coming from the northbound I-79 onto the westbound I-70. The junction is a notorious accident blackspot, and one trucker describes the wall next to it as “just beat to pieces where people have banged into it”, while Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Magg calls it “horribly designed”. The intersection is currently being restructured and should be completed in October 2014 but until then, take the hairpin bend very, very slowly.
8. Interstate-285, GA
I-285 is one of the busiest roads in America, with 2 million vehicles a day using it. It circles the city of Atlanta, and at rush hour it moves at a crawling pace. That doesn’t stop it being deadly – in fact, the crowded conditions exacerbate the effects of accidents, like when a lorry dropped a ladder onto the road and caused a multi-vehicle pile-up (above). The incident happened not long before rush hour and blocked all four lanes going north and sadly, caused the death of 1 person and the injury of 2 more.
The interchange with I-85 is particularly hazardous with its 18 lanes and many levels of highway causing confusion and dangerous driving. It is locally known as Spaghetti Junction, although its official name is the Tom Moreland Interchange. The high-level bridges and suspended roadways are also particularly prone to ice during winter, adding an extra edge of danger to the confusion. It’s a remarkable piece of highway engineering, but not a safe one.
7. Interstate-10, LA
Another dangerous stretch of road in Louisiana is I-10, which stretches from California to Florida, crossing I-12 at Baton Rouge. A prominent feature of the road is the High Rise Bridge, over an industrial canal, which is tall enough that ships pass underneath it.
The height means a sharp gradient, though, which inevitably causes problems as cars struggle with the climb and break down. In case that wasn’t tricky enough, there’s an on-ramp to contend with too, which makes for an accident blackspot. One such accident occurred on March 28 and involved 9 vehicles. If your car isn’t good on hills, probably best to avoid.
6. Interstate-24, TN
This road is famous for the Monteagle Mountain stretch, where the road climbs steeply across the mountain. It was once notorious for crashes caused by runaway trucks, but gravel pits alongside the highway now act as truck ramps, for any that veer off the road. Monteagle Mountain was immortalized in song by Johnny Cash, who sang “Your life is in your hands when you start down that long, steep grade”. If the gradient wasn’t bad enough, there’s also a sharp curve and thick fog every morning. One trucker says “You can’t see anything in front of you…It’s incredibly nerve-wracking”
The other notable feature of I-24 is the sinkhole that appeared in the eastbound lanes in Grundy County in May 2010. The hole was 25-feet deep and only reopened after substantial repair works and a bill of $267,000. Remarkably, no-one was hurt in the incident.