What did you think of driving in the UK this winter? Did heavy rain, a smattering of snow or a gust of wind have you gripping the steering wheel a little tighter? You’re not alone. In fact, severe flooding in Cumbria and (albeit minimal) snowfall in towards the North gave some British drivers an unwelcome surge of adrenaline.
But, how do you think you’d have fared if you lived elsewhere in the world? Would scenic mountain views and jungle terrain set your heart soaring, or palpating? Jennings Motor Group have listed some of the most beautiful – yet deadly – drives across the world.
Nerve Wracking, but Doable
First, let’s take a look at the Italian Alps. As one of the most dramatic mountain roads to drive in the Alps, the Stelvio pass is bound to provide a great snap for your Instagram feed. But with 48 switchbacks zigzagging from a great height, it’s worth keeping your wits about you. Voted ‘The Best Driving Road’ in 2008 by Top Gear, it’s great fun for experienced drivers and cyclists alike, though not one to attempt unless you’re a skilled driver with a suitable car.
Want to try this drive? The BSKC recommend gently braking in a straight line towards a hairpin bend, taking your foot off the brake before turning in smoothly to the apex, and then accelerating (sensibly!) out of the corner. Use your gears wisely and take it slowly enough so that you’re not forced into the middle of the road as you make the turn.
Looking for a road a little closer to home? You might not have to look very far at all. A 2014 report revealed that the quality of roads in the UK are falling, creating dangerous drives across the country. However, if you’re looking for the most dangerous road in the UK statistically, look no further than the A726.
Whilst the A726 isn’t as death defying or exotic as others on this list, it’s nonetheless one of the most dangerous routes in Scotland, accounting for 40 fatalities in a five-year period. So why is it so perilous? Well, the 7 kilometre stretch becomes busy with traffic, and includes an exceptionally twisty duel carriageway. This makes for lots of blind corners and head-on collisions at speed.
Up for driving the A726? Take it slowly and remember that there will be tighter bends - and more of them - than you’re anticipating. Look out for road signs such as chevrons to indicate a bend in the road, and use your sat nav to pre-empt twists and turns in the road that you can’t yet see.
Fancy a Road Trip?
The Pan American highway runs for 30,000 miles, from Alaska to Argentina, which means motorists on this road will need to negotiate all manner of environments - glaciers, deserts, jungles and mountains – to make it out unscathed! If you and your vehicle are equipped to deal with high (and low) temperatures, landslides, steep drop-offs and lots of tyre-testing terrain, you could consider it the ultimate road trip.
Are you considering giving the Pan American Highway a go? If so, bear in mind that there are nearly 3,000 road deaths every year in the USA. You’ll need to be equipped for all weather and have plenty of spare cash for repairs and maintenance to your vehicle - it’s going to take a hammering. And with so many miles and so many terrains, it’s going to test your motoring skill and sensibility too.
Or venture east to Russia. The Trans Siberian Highway is the longest continuous highway in the world, inevitably making it impossible to maintain. In the space of 6,800 miles from St Petersburg to Vladivostok, this road traverses mountains, forests and deserts in sub-zero temperatures. Whilst some sections are well looked after, wet summers turn parts of the highway into a quagmire, whilst winter temperatures make for treacherous driving conditions and pot-holes a-plenty.
If you’re up for putting pedal to the metal, then drive this road between June and September when the climate is at its kindest. Remember too that while this highway is less death-defying than other roads on this list, some of the Siberian section is unpaved. And there are many miles of this road where you’ll be far from services, petrol or help.
Drivable, but Keep your Wits About You
Ever fancied seeing Brazil? Well, the BR-116 is a 2,700-mile stretch of highway running up the length of the country, which guarantees you’ll see everything Brazil has to offer. This road happens to have the highest concentration of truckers: their long shifts and fatigue coupled with high cliff sides on some sections and lack of paving in others earns BR-116 its fearsome nickname: ‘The Highway of Death’. And it’s not just the terrain that makes this road so infamous – sadly, UNICEF has identified this road as the most active highway in the world for the sexual exploitation of minors.
If you find yourself on this route, use a 4x4 to help you navigate changing terrain and unexpected pot holes, as well as giving you a bit more size alongside the numerous truckers you’ll be sharing the road with. Brace yourself for the poverty and issues highlighted by UNICEF too – you wont be able to miss these kinds of issues on a route like this.
Or how about Mexico? Federal Highway 1, snaking between mountains and coastline, accounts for 1,000 miles of Mexico’s most dangerous roads. Due to the number of accidents on this road, precautions have been taken, but are generally regarded as little more than a token attempt to reduce the risk involved in using this highway. In fact, many guard rails are split wide open by drivers who haven’t negotiated the twists and turns very well! Whilst some of this drive is pleasant enough, you could be lulled into a false sense of security.
So, if you’re thinking of trying this drive, bear in mind that one of the main risks on Federal Highway 1 is taking a blind corner at speed with an oncoming vehicle. Take it steady, let the broken guard rails serve as a reminder of how risky this road is, and give freight trucks plenty of time and space.
A White-Knuckle Ride - if you dare
Otherwise known as the ‘Road of No Mistakes’ (namely because you can’t afford to make one), the Guoliang Tunnel road in China has been painstakingly hand carved by villagers who were otherwise cut off from civilisation. It’s said to have taken thirteen villagers five years to chisel the 0.8-mile road out of the mountainside, and it’s only just wide enough for two vehicles to pass alongside. Whilst its creation is an impressive achievement by tenacious, untrained locals, the rough, narrow road is steep and risky in wet conditions.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, travel on this route when the road is dry, and remember that a ‘do-it-yourself’ road doesn’t win any points in the safety department. The height, twists and turns within the tunnel, and the potential to plummet to the valley below are enough to leave even professional drivers quaking with fear.
If you’ve always fancied adventuring into the beautiful landscape of Pakistan, check out the Nanga Parbat pass. This road is an unstable and narrow mountain road situated at the base of the ninth tallest mountain in the world. Deceptively, the pass has earned the nickname ‘Fairy Meadow Road’ due to a picturesque destination en route. However, the pass itself is anything but family friendly.
A narrow six mile ascent on a road that hasn’t been repaired for hundreds of years (and is lacking barriers, to boot) often sends intrepid explorers to their deaths. Does a fairy meadow sound to good to miss? If you’ve got nerves of steel and really want to take the risk, drive nothing wider than a jeep (otherwise you’ll struggle to keep four wheels fixed to the ground) and take it very, very slowly. One small lapse in concentration could see you hurtling into the valley below.
Alternatively, if you insist on dancing with death, you’ll find an even scarier white-knuckle ride in India, which as the second highest number of road deaths in the world, suffering almost 106,000 fatalities every year. The Zoji pass, a treacherous road in the western section of the Himalayan mountain range, is doubtless serving to add to this number.
The pass reaches 11,575 feet at its highest point with sheer drops whichever way you look, and is little more than a strip of road linking Ladakh and Kashmir. The road is often closed during winter due to intense snowfall, and even during spring and summer, the Zoji pass is deadly. A peek over the edge (of course, there are no barriers) is disorientating, and completely panic-inducing on a windy day.
If you’re thinking of negotiating the Zoji pass, think twice! Many globe trotters opt to trek this path instead. It’s still a risky undertaking, but being on foot might be preferable to finding your tyres teetering off the edge of the pass when confronted with an oncoming vehicle.
Don’t Even Think About it…
A highway nicknamed ‘The Road of Death’ largely speaks for itself, and is reputed to be the most dangerous world in the road by many. Ranked 10/10 for overall fear factor by drivingexperiences.com, the North Yungas road in Bolivia is largely a single lane track (little more than 10 feet wide) without guard rails: not a good place to be when faced with an oncoming truck!
An unlucky driver could plummet 2,000 feet down the road’s many cliff faces, and sadly, many do. It’s estimated that the road claims between 200 to 300 lives every year. This road should be avoided at all costs unless you’re employed by Top Gear. The good news is that there’s an alternative route available, so steer clear of the North Yungas road if you’re venturing to Bolivia any time soon.