The World’s Most Dangerous Roads
Various factors must be taken into account when considering the world’s most dangerous roads. Extreme geographical features are first and foremost on the list of dangers, with deep, steep valleys and rock or mud slides being particularly problematic for drivers aiming to make it home alive. One example of a road is this category is the Sichuan-Tibet Highway which links Chengdu in China with the Dalia Lama’s spiritual home of Tibet which snakes through mountain passes that are subject to regular avalanches of snow and rubble. On the plus side, the views are great.
Of course, there are plenty of roads that take in panoramas of picturesque and dramatic scenery that are far from dangerous because those who made them took a few safety precautions. I confess I am no civil engineer but when planning a new road I would suggest something that would be high on my agenda would be to install a road surface that remains in place when it rains (unlike sections of the Prithvi Highway in Nepal). Another thing that I consider to be of real assistance to those want to stay on track (literally) is to make the road in question wide enough for at least one vehicle, and preferably two if it is bi-directional. The precarious gravel surface of the quaintly named Fairy Meadows Road in Pakistan is barely wide enough for a single jeep, and obviously there are no guard rails to provide a reassuring barrier between vehicles and vertigo-inducing gorges. Attempting to overtake can induce symptoms that might be best remedied by a box of Imodium.
Of course, scary roads do not all meander up and down and round (or even through – i.e. the Guoliang Tunnel Road) mountains. Even on the world’s most dangerous roads most accidents are caused by the errors, ignorance or downright idiocy of human beings. And nowhere are such attributes more regularly in evidence than on the Nakura-Eldoret Highway near Nairobi in Kenya where over 300 deaths a year are caused by a combustible cocktail of speeding, drinking and ill-timed overtaking manoeuvres.
However, the place you are most likely to need to make a road accident claim is the North Yungas Road in Bolivia, commonly know as the Death Road. And for good reason. Linking the high-altitude capital La Paz with Coroico in the country’s Amazon rainforest region, the road invites drivers to ascend to a maximum thin-air altitude of 4,650 metres before quickly descending 1,200 metres all within about 60 km. Even the hardiest of souls can be chilled by the macabre sight of the many crosses that line the route, each marking the spot where someone’s vehicle was not able to stay on the perilously narrow pass and had plunged more than 600 metres to oblivion. Built by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War in the 1930s, the road has seen hundreds of deaths per year in recent decades, including more than 100 passengers who perished in 1983 when their bus plunged off the road into a canyon.
Thankfully in 2006 the road modernisation project that had taken almost 20 years was completed. The most dangerous section of the route has since been bypassed and the new section even has two lanes. If you would like to experience the Death Road first hand, however, do not fear: you can take to two wheels to descend the route on a mountain bike. Before you do though, it’s worth knowing that almost 20 cyclists have lost their lives on the ride since 1998. Be warned.