Scariest road you've ever driven on?

A few years ago I was in California and had the occasion to drive several times between San Jose and Berkeley. I’m not sure which road I took – presumably either I-880 or US 101 – but it has stood out in my memory ever since as a particularly scary road for someone not familiar with the area. Although it was an extremely busy road with frequent on- and off-ramps, I guess it somehow got designated as “rural”, as the speed limit was 65 mph… and everyone was going at least 75. OK, fine, but the big problem was… if you wanted to just poke along at 67 or 68 in the right hand lane, you couldn’t, because the right hand lane was constantly becoming an exit-only lane. I spent the whole time with people zooming up behind me, sitting on my ass, and then swerving madly around me as soon as a spot opened up in the solid lines of cars on either side. I hated being a traffic hazard, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drive over 70 in a rental car on an unfamiliar road in heavy traffic with my wife and kid in the car. I don’t normally get scared by freeway driving, but that was a real sweaty-palm experience.

Your stories?

There are very few free-access freeways in the Bay Area that aren’t 65mph. A “rural” freeway is likely to be 70mph.

I got stuck on some very rural roads in Ireland this past September. Driving on the left wasn’t the problem, although it didn’t help. The problem was that the roads were very narrow; sometimes there wasn’t a center line because there wasn’t enough room. Most of the time the roads very winding and were lined with hedges, limiting visibility. Still, the speed limit was 80kph.

Portuguese Bendin Palos Verdes, CA. It’s a crazy, twisty road with many buckles and not so many guard rails to save one from plummeting into the Pacific Ocean(although I have told the story here of one time when one such guard rail saved my life). It’s scary under any circumstances but one particular night I drove it a thick fog rolled in. Did I mention there are no lights there? I’ve never been more terrified in a car.

Some winding roads in rural West Virginia in a Dodge Shadow. We had previously made the trip in big Impala wagon but the little Dodge coupe made us so dizzy that we had to pull over!

The traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Eight lanes wide, no markings whatsoever.

April 200…4? (not sure, maybe a year before or after)

Rental car, Italian alps (very close to Mont Blanc, er I mean Monte Bianco), looking for the B&B we were to get to for the next few nights with the wife and kids with me in the car.

5 PM or so.

1.5 lane roads at best. Winding. Poor signage.

Oh, did I mention it was snowing heavily at the time…?


Keep in mind that I have a bit of driving phobia in the first place. I also fear highway driving. And I have a big fear of heights. As you can imagine, highway bridges are not my friend. Also, I hate tailgaters.

There is a stretch of road in Boston – leads to I-93 north, maybe? – that’s basically a gigantic single lane loop that swings way out over the city. It’s approximately 4,000 feet high, is lined only with Dixie Cups for guard rails, and everyone behind me wants to drive 200mph. And it goes on F O R E V E R.

It is my own personal hell.

Roosevelt Boulevard in north Philly. It’s twelve lanes across - three local lanes, three express lanes either way. When my commute took me down that road it also took me through two of the most allegedly dangerous intersections in the country. In those three months that I was doing that commute, I saw maybe three dozen accidents on that road. Most were minor, but some were decidedly not.

The scariest roads I’ve ever driven were dirt or gravel out in the Canyonlands somplace–probably not what you had in mind.

The most stressful, though–driving anywhere the LA basin just about anytime of the day or night.

The road into Fort Stewart, Georgia. Late at night. On my way with my then-girlfriend to visit friends of hers.




Putting me into the ditch?

With the alligators?

The Taconic Parkway, in driving rain at night.

I’m sure it’s worse now, what with people driving backwards on it.

The old Cooper River bridge, the one that went from Mount Pleasant into Charleston instead of the other way around, was built in the 20’s. Shortly before they tore it down to replace it it got inspected and got some sort of single digit score out of 100. Oh my god was it scary. I’d have closed my eyes, only I was driving the car. The bridge was made for Model T’s, and you were driving across at highway speeds with semis.

I don’t know if it could properly be considered a road, but trying to drive a Honda Accord up the side of a mountain in Nevada was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Also 395 from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe was a bit too high-up for me to appreciate the scenery.

There’s a two-lane road in Tahoe with sheer drops on both sides of it.

Last August I was in Paris for the very first time in my life. We took a rental car from Amsterdam and roadtripped down there and after a couple times around it (on different occassions, not like the traffic circle in National Lampoon’s European, Vacation), I got a bit more comfortable with it, but there was always that impending fear of turning into a motorcycle on my right.

The scariest road I’ve been on, but luckily didn’t do the actual driving, was a one lane road from Bikaner to Delhi in India. And by one lane, I mean that it was one lane coming and going. It was also bumpy, isolated, curvy, and with flora sometimes taller than the SUV we were travelling in. Also, we were going about 100 Kilometers per hour. Ever have that moment on a rollercoaster where you close your eyes and say to yourself “It will be over soon, you’ll survive” ? I did that a lot on that part.

San Jose to Berkeley would’ve been I-880, aka the Nimitz. There used to be bumperstickers that read “pray for me, I drive the Nimitz” with good reason, as you now know. 101 ain’t much better.

I once helped the new managers of Brighton Ski Bowl up Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City move into the inn. We did it during the night hours (12 midnight to dawn), because they rental truck place screwed up and that’s the only time we had the vehicle. It took three trips.

UT-190 is the only road up the canyon. There are signs all over to “Watch Out for Fallen Rocks”*. The road twists and turns, especially the double reverse-curve called “the Stairs”, and there were, at the time, no guardrails (I don’t know if they’ve put up any since, what with the Olympics and all). Beyond the edge of the road was an unguarded precipice into the runoff stream below that could, depending upon where you were, be 100 feet or more of a drop.
We did this in the dead of winter, so the roads were covered with ice and snow and – just to make it interesting – there was REALLY heavy fog. You couldn’t see ten feet in front of you. I say that without exaggeration. 14.6 miles:

*Not “Watch Out For Falling Rocks”, as many people believe. The danger isn’t that you’ll just happen to be unlucky enough to be under the sandstone boulder when it happens to fall, like the Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons. The problem is that even relatively small boulders that have already fallen onto the roadbed will be waiting for you to run into them and mash up your front end, or tear up the underside of your car (depending upon how big they are). And then you can fall off the guard-rail-less edge and make a tiny little “Paff!” and cloud of dust when you hit.

I’ve done that on the Merritt Parkway… it’s like driving really fast down a very shallow riverbed.

Pretty much any rural, two-lane, non-toll highway in Mexico. Bad road conditions, bad driving habits, and badly maintained vehicles all contribute to truly dreadful driving experiences, especially at night.

Probably the worst I’ve been on was a mountain highway just north of Leon to go to Ocampo. Curves with no straight segments, slow trucks both ways, and people that think that they can pass blindly and survive. Oh, and like Arlo Guthrie says, on one side of the road is a mountain, and on the other side of the road is nothin’.

Ever seen Rendez-vous?

You’ll probably want to avoid the Millau Viaduct.

I did that drive a couple years ago; three different passes across the Sierras. It was amazing. I could have used a car with some more guts, though.

Scariest road I’ve driven on; does the Nürburgring Nordschleife count?