Thursday, December 3, 2020

Ten of the most dangerous routes in America

 

Nick Austin of Freightwaves has published two articles, one in October and one last month, each listing five of the most dangerous roads for truckers in this country.  I figured they'd be equally dangerous for motorists in general, and so read the articles with interest.

He's identified ten roads/routes so far, five in each article:

  1. U.S. Highway 2 in Montana;
  2. U.S. Highway 550 in Colorado (The Million Dollar Highway);
  3. Interstate 95 in Connecticut;
  4. Interstate 10 in Arizona;
  5. Dalton Highway in Alaska;
  6. California Route 138: ‘Blood Alley’;
  7. Interstate 4 in Florida;
  8. U.S. Highway 24: Toledo to Fort Wayne;
  9. Interstate 15: Las Vegas to Los Angeles;
  10. U.S. Highway 129: North Carolina to Tennessee.

I was astonished to see the last entry on the list.  It's better known as the "Tail of the Dragon".  I've driven it, but didn't see any trucks on it - and I find it hard to imagine as a heavy vehicle route, because it's steep and very, very twisting, with 318 turns in 11 miles, beloved of motorcycle riders and sports car drivers.  Here - see it for yourself.



And Freightwaves considers that a trucking route?  I think they're trucking crazy!  However, I'll certainly agree that it's very dangerous to anyone exceeding the limits of their driving ability.  The day I drove it, I saw no less than five accidents in those eleven miles, and that was considered a routine day.  There's a "Tree of Shame" at the foot of the pass, where shattered remnants of motorcycles are hung up as a reminder to riders to be careful.  It's quite a sight.



I don't fancy an eighteen-wheeler's chances of making it through there unscathed - but I can't help thinking that even the suggestion is Mr. Austin's idea of a joke.  Seriously, readers who know trucking:  would any of you want to drive that road in an eighteen-wheeler?




Peter


17 comments:

Ragin' Dave said...

I can't imagine why in the name of all that's holy would anyone try to use any part of the Blue Ridge Parkway as a trucking route. The Tail of the Dragon is the last part of the BRP. I've ridden the parkway in Virginia, and I think I scraped half my footpegs off on the curves. There's no way in hell that a big rig could get through there without causing accidents every 200 feet.

Miguel GFZ said...

Raise my hand for I-4 in Florida. I have driven some really scary mountain roads in the Andes, and I had never felt in so much impending danger as the time I drove in I-4 from Lakeland to Orlando to get in the Turnpike

Jonathan H said...

I've driven 4 of those roads and didn't think they were too bad, though for a truck things could be different.

I wouldn't WANT to take the tail of the Dragon in a truck, but I can see where sometimes trucks HAVE to take it to get where they are going.

A similar example is US 33 in Eastern West Virginia into Virginia, from approximately Elkins to Harrisonburg - it has multiple sections of 10% grade with switchbacks and several places where the road climbs and then drops 1500 feet,including crossing the Eastern Continental Divide. In winter it can be quite unpredictable - but delivery trucks take it both ways, year round because alternate routes between stores are impractical, requiring multiple hours.

George said...

Trucks (commercial vehicles) over 30 feet long are not allowed on US 129 on either side of the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Both states have banned them. It is impossible for a semi to travel through there safely.

Judy said...

I understand why I-10 in Arizona is on the list. There are two spots in Phoenix where half the population is trying to go from the far left lane to the far right lane in about a mile and vise versa twice a day. And it ain't much fun the rest of the day either. Crosswinds and dust storms can make things interesting out on the desert.

Anonymous said...

As a former truck driver that drove I-95 through Kommiecticut almost daily, I am not surprised that it is #3 on the hit parade. But it is not the entire length of I-95, it is the stretch from Bridgeport to the NY border where it continues to be total shit through NY and the northern half of NJ. There is one other smaller trouble area from where I-95, I-395 and RT. 1 come together in Waterford until the other side of The Gold Star Bridge in Groton. It is a decent ride to RI from there.

riverrider said...

been on 6 of those. the dragon is by far the worst. even on my bike i hate it. give me the wide open spaces.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Never been a trucker but many, many miles as a road warrior. Truckers use those dangerous routes when loads need to be delivered.

Mad Jack said...

I've driven the Toledo - Ft. Wayne route several times in the past. I wouldn't call it extremely dangerous during the day, but at night things begin to get a bit tight.

The route is supposed to take one hour and 45 minutes to get you from one city to the other (or from the dump to the gravel pit), but don't put any money on your ETA. An accident involving six smart-as-a-wastebasket tailgaters who got creamed when the lead tailgater pissed off a soccer mom in her SUV and she gave them a brake job will tie up the highway for hours. Once you're past the wreck, it's balls to the walls to make up for lost time. And that is just when it happens - some fool cuts you off because he can't be bother to look before he swaps lanes. You pop the brakes and the silly sonofabitch two feet from your bumper simultaneously hits you, cranks his wheel over and loses it. One chain reaction later, 24 is tied up again.

No one who passes these accidents does anything more than slow down, stare, weave around, and then speed up again. And the semis create their own bottleneck. I've seen the truckers roll side by side, neither one willing to pass the other.

Traveling in the day season, in good weather, you'll see a few problems. Drive it at night, and it's a lot different.

edlfrey said...

I drove Tail of the Dragon with a Scion xB towing a Teardrop trailer and did not find it to be too bad.It is on a par with the Devils Backbone from Durango to Mazatlán, MX; which some people claim is one of the most dangerous stretches of road on earth. I drove that also towing a Teardrop while semi-trucks were also using it (a new road has been opened since that time).

Speed and paying attention are critical for both of them!

drjim said...

I've got several friends that have driven the Tail of the Dragon many times. It's an amazing drive, and they have video and pictures of all the skid marks on the pavement.

US 550 in Colorado has an interesting page on Wikkipedia. Seems they have "overpasses" built for avalanches and rock slides so the road doesn't get wiped out.

George said...

If anyone would like to see what the Tail of the Dragon looks like, I have a couple of videos that I made in 2012 while I was working there. Caveats: Sorry about the wind noise, and if there are any ads in it blame Youtube and Pink Floyd, as I didn't monetize my videos and there is a copyright claim on them for the music playing on the bike stereo.

Also, it is polite to pull over and let traffic by if you can't stay close to the 30 mph speed limit. My yelling didn't work, so I pulled over halfway through to let the slow traffic get ahead of me, although I wasn't speeding at all.

https://youtu.be/cny0lqTaGOA

https://youtu.be/FynBnAAxrFo

Silent Draco said...

It's enough white knuckle moments driving a car. Won't tow a trailer or camper there. I-84 from CT-NY line to past Hartford is almost as bad, probably at 12-13 on the list?

DaddyBear said...

I've driven the I-10 and I-15 routes many times. To me, the biggest danger was falling asleep or just losing all focus on the road and driving into a ditch when what was a 5o mile long straightaway takes a gentle curve for a few few miles.

Amahl_Shukup said...

I live very close to this route, but had not driven it for one reason or another. That changed a few years ago when my wife and I took our new Miata down to the Tennessee side of the route and drove the thing. It was a thrilling drive, even at 30 to 40 mph, but motorcycle groups kept passing us at speed and I thought, "You guys are crazy!" Sure enough, after one pack passed us about 5 minutes later we came upon them, pulled off to the side of the road and one of them piled into a rock outcropping not more than 2 feed off the pavement. We slowly negotiated around the wreck scene and made it to the North Carolina end of the trial and then came back home by a different route. For me (and I'm no coward!) once is enough to have driven that road.

Maniac said...

I live in southern New England and I don't think that either 84 or 95 are that bad as long as you watch what you're doing.

RocketmanKarl said...

I'm surprised that the Pulaski Skyway isn't on there. It's 3.5 miles of bridge/elevated highway in NJ that leads to the Holland tunnel into NYC. Designed by an idiot, with bad visibility around curves and over crests, no shoulders, exit/entrance ramps with no merge lanes, and almost 100 years of poor maintenance. Add to that the aggressive "competitive sport" nature of driving in the NYC area, and you have a recipe for automotive pinball. It opened in 1932, and by 1934, trucks were banned from using it. Here's the kicker: as dangerous as it is, there has been essentially zero changes made to it to improve safety in 90 years. Had to drive it every day for a year, don't miss it one bit.