1Furka Pass (Switzerland)
Switzerland’s Furka Pass played a big part in the iconic 1964 James Bond classic, Goldfinger. The road stretches through the Swiss Alps at an elevation of 2,429 m (7,969 ft) and is one of the highest roads in all of Europe.
The pass provides a truly scenic ride with panoramic views, but it is deadly. Its precipitous slopes aren’t easy to navigate, particularly in the first section and, in the dark or rain, it can be a nail-biting experience. The road is closed in winter, and anytime the road is not cleaned of snow, but it is the Swiss Alps after all, and yes, it is quite beautiful.
2U.S. Route 431 (Alabama)
It looks like an innocuous stretch of highway, but Alabama’s Route 431 is considered one of the deadliest roads in the U.S.
Bad visibility, abrupt changes in the number of lanes, and rampant speeding has resulted in many a crash. One particular alignment of the road, which ran from Pittsview to the border of Barbour County, was so dangerous it was eventually bypassed in 2008—but not before claiming 31 lives from 1992 to 2006.
The road is so deadly that it attracted the notice of the World Health Organization (WHO). In WHO’s 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, Highway 431 garnered a four rating out of a possible ten for a “fear factor” rating. This “fear factor” rating reflects variables like visibility, speed, lanes, and other potential hazards.
3Col du Chaussy (France)
Of the most scenic drives in the world, the Col du Chaussy is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1,533 meters above the sea level.
The road to reach the summit starts with the famous “lacets de Montvernier,” a 3 km stretch with 17 hairpins. Through those hairpins, drivers will meet with a vertical drop of 400 meters. This is exactly where you do NOT want your brakes to fail.
After the first twists and turns, the road continues with a 7-8 % grade while passing through the villages of Le Noirey, Montbrunal et Montpascal. The southern side of the road is entirely paved but very narrow. The last kilometers before the summit are badly surfaced. Adding to this adrenalin-pumping adventure, there are sections of the Col du Chaussy that are not broad enough to allow two vehicles to pass.
4Skippers Canyon Road (New Zealand)
A British driving firm, Driving Experience, has labeled Skippers Canyon Road, 25 minutes from Queenstown in the Mt. Aurum Recreation Reserve, as “unbelievably scary as it is beautiful.”
The report gives Skippers Canyon an “overall road fear factor” of 7 out of 10, saying, “While fatality numbers are relatively low, this mountain road with its huge drop into the ravine below is so dangerous, it requires a huge amount of concentration, patience, and even a special permit to even try and tackle it. The extremely narrow path, cut in the middle of a sheer cliff face, makes it hugely difficult to maneuver any vehicle.”
Queenstown Lakes District Council spokeswoman Michele Poole disagrees with the report, saying as long as people drive to the conditions, the road is perfectly safe.
Skippers Canyon is narrow and prone to slips, and that there is no turnaround for 6 km. Snow also closes the road during in the winter. But is it safe for the average driver? If you visit New Zealand and feel like attempting it, be sure to let us know.
With a total length of 2,700 miles, BR116 is Brazil’s second longest highway and connects Fortaleza in Ceará State with Jaguarão near the Uruguay border, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. It runs from the north to the south and is roughly parallel to the coastline.
The São Paulo-Curitiba section (Rodovia Régis Bittencourt) is especially notorious and has been nicknamed “Rodovia DA Morte” (the “highway of death”). Apart from being the busiest section of the road, it is the lifeline of more than 200,000 people. Drivers have a hard time negotiating it due to its high cliff sides in some sections and rough weather.
There’s also a thriving sex trade along the BR-116. The highway is dotted with villages and towns along its span and is composed of poverty-stricken areas where girls as young as 9-years-old engage in prostitution. According to UNICEF, the BR-116 is the most active highway in the world in terms of sexual exploitation of minors.
6Halsema Highway (Phillippines)
The highest altitude highway in the Philippines, the Halsema Highway connects the city of Baguio to Bontoc. Halsema is quite slippery when it’s wet and not very well maintained, but that’s all part of the thrill of driving this dangerous and desolate road.
The 150-mile long highway is famous for its zigzag turns, mud, and rock slides, and also runs through some of the most isolated areas of the country. (So, make sure you have enough gas before you start.) Fog can also be a serious impediment. The highest point of the highway is in Atok; it boasts an altitude of 7398 feet.
In 2014, the A44 between Llangurig and Aberystwyth was deemed Wales’ most dangerous road, according to research from the Road Safety Foundation.
There were 27 fatal or serious crashes on the road with 40% of those being “run off” incidents, involving a single vehicle leaving the carriageway. 19% of accidents on the A44 were head-on crashes.
James Bradford, an engineering manager for the Road Safety Foundation, said run off accidents could be reduced with guards rails installed or wider hard shoulders.
The A44 is monitored closely by officials and locals have fought to get the speed limit reduced to 40 mph in recent years, but the route remains popular with speeding bikers and still claims its share of lives.
8Luxor-al-Hurghada Road (Egypt)
The Luxor-al-Hurghada Road, a 299-mile stretch of road that connects the tourist cities of Luxor and Hurghada in Egypt, is one of the most dangerous highways in the world.
A trip along the notorious highway takes about 4 hours, 40 minutes to complete, if you can survive the journey. Bandits and extremist militiamen, keen on undermining the bustling tourism business, reside in the rugged terrain.
Tales of robberies, kidnappings, extortion and murder have given the highway its notorious reputation. Paranoid travelers drive at high speeds for fear of meeting some unwanted fate. This, in turn, leads to terrible crashes and collisions, as exhibited by the twisted vehicle shells that lie in some areas.
At night, things get decidedly worse. There are virtually no lights along the highway, giving robbers the perfect opportunity to waylay unsuspecting drivers. As a result, drivers switch off their headlights at night, while cruising at deadly speeds. Yikes!
9Bayburt D915 (Turkey)
Located in the Trabzon province of Turkey, D915 is one of the most challenging roads in the world. It’s not for the novice or the faint of heart—the road is extreme, bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters unprotected by guardrails.
D915 links the town of Trabzon Province and Bayburt and is 106 km long with 29 steep hairpins.
The road itself is in horrible condition. The start and the end are asphalted, but the central part is gravel. There are some narrow sections—scarcely wide enough for two cars—and it’s tough to navigate in the rain or dark of night.
D915 climbs to an elevation of 2,035m above the sea level, at Soganli Dagi. Avalanches, heavy snowfall, and landslides can occur anytime, and parts of the road are routinely closed in winter due to blizzards and ice. We hear Bayburt D915 is quite scenic, but we’ll happily travel it from the comforts of our office instead.