Watch out for America’s 100 most dangerous roads during your summer travels

What season is most dangerous to drive, winter or summer? If you said winter, you join about 83% of surveyed Americans. But the reality is that the three months of summer have the highest auto accident rates, accounting for about one in three fatalities. And as we’ve discussed before, Saturdays in August are some of the most dangerous days to drive.
When it comes to summer driving safety, there are definitely some spots that are hotter than others. The Daily Beast crunched the numbers on data 5 years of data from the National Highway Safety Administration to come up with a list of 100 U.S. interstates most likely to generate a fatal crash.
For another take on unsafe roads, you might turn to SafeRoadMaps, which offers a variety of interactive maps to tracks fatality data . See their report on states with the most rural summer hotspots (PDF).
Jon Burner of Forbes recently wrote an interesting article about America’s fastest roads – highways where speeds often exceed 90 mph. While many of these roads tend to be long, straight highways in desolate areas, but the article cites some notorious urban areas too:

“The fastest road near an urban area is California Route 73, a six-lane freeway in Orange County that connects Santa Ana and San Juan Capistrano through the San Joaquin Hills. While the speed limit on that stretch is 65 miles per hour, the fastest 5% of drivers average speeds around 82 miles per hour over 17 miles of roadway.
Inrix’s statistics also show that New Yorkers really do drive fast. The Westchester County suburbs of New York City are home to the fastest road in the eastern U.S. — and one of only two East Coast roads that made the list. Drivers on the winding, heavily traveled Saw Mill River Parkway frequently reach speeds of 78 to 85 miles per hour between the towns of Elmsford and Hawthorne, despite the 50-mile-per-hour speed limit.
Connecticut has the fastest stretch of Interstate highway in the country, according to Inrix. Over a one-mile distance on Interstate 84 northeast of Hartford, the fastest 5 percent of drivers routinely flaunt the 65-mile-per-hour speed limit by driving 85 miles per hour.”

For more on deadly roads, see our prior post about the deadliest US roads – which includes a bonus breath-taking video on Bolivia’s death road, called the most dangerous road on earth.

Seasonal road hazards: deer, moose and other ruminants

It’s that time of year again: peak deer-car collision season. More than half of all vehicle-deer crashes annually occur in October through December, with November being the peak month. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 150 fatalities each year are caused by vehicle-deer collisions. Deer are fast, unpredictable and can appear out of the blue.

But deer aren’t the only four-legged danger – moose and elk are serious road hazards, too. Larger, taller and with more body mass than deer, a bull moose can reach up to 1500 pounds. And because they are tall with long legs, they often come right in through the windshield when hit, a serious danger to car occupants. See this mammmal size comparison illustration to get an idea of how big moose, elk, deer, and other wildlife can be.

IIHS has issued a chart of fatalities from crashes with animals, tracking from 1975. They note that many of these deaths were preventable:

“Most of the crash deaths occurred after a motor vehicle had struck an animal and then run off the road or a motorcyclist had fallen off a bike. Many of these deaths wouldn’t have occurred with appropriate protection. The study found that 60 percent of the people killed riding in vehicles weren’t using safety belts, and 65 percent of those killed riding on motorcycles weren’t wearing helmets.”

Here are some resources to help you assess your state’s relative risk when it comes to large animals in the deer family:
Moose populations in selected states
Elk population by state
Driving tips to avoid colliding with deer and moose

  • Wear your seat belt
  • Be particularly cautions at dawn, dusk. Most collisions occur between 5 and 10 pm.
  • If you see one deer, there may be others – deer travel in herds
  • Heed posted signs warning about wildlife – they are there for a reason
  • Avoid speeding. Slow down around curves
  • Scan the sides of the road – watch for movement.
  • Be particularly alert on roads with woods, farmland, and water
  • Be cautious and slow down at night. You may see deer eyes reflected in your lights, but moose eyes don’t reflect light.
  • Watch other traffic – if you see cars stopped or slowing, it may indicate an animal
  • Flash headlights to warn other drivers
  • Don’t try to outrace or beat a crossing animal
  • Use high beams when you can
  • If you see an animal, honk your horn. Your lights may freeze or confuse an animal.
  • Motorcycles are particularly vulnerable – a cyclist may even be charged by a large animal

What to do if you hit a deer or a moose
Stop your car, put on hazard lights. You want to be visible so that no other car will hit you, your car, or the animal. Avoid approaching an injured animal, which can be very dangerous. In some states, if there are no injuries and your car is drivable, you would not be required to report the collision to the police. If you are unsure of the state law, call police. They will alert game wardens or the appropriate authorities to handle the animal. Some states will let you keep an animal for the meat, but you may need a permit. Report the accident to your insurance agent as soon as possible.
Drivers should be aware that not all auto insurance will cover deer or moose collisions. Comprehensive insurance is required to pay for damage incurred from an animal collision. Some people only have collision coverage and don’t carry comprehensive.

The deadliest U.S. roads

Fox news just issued their list of The Top Ten Deadliest Stretches of Road in America. To compile this list, they analyzed five years of crash reports to determine which roads had the highest number of deadly accidents. For those of us in New England, the good news is that none of those roads are located here. California has four roads on the list; Florida and Arizona both have two roads on the list; and Texas and Nevada both have one. See a comparison chart of all states auto fatalities and fatality rates.
But New England drivers shouldn’t relax. Nearly 60% of all highway deaths occur on rural roads, and two New England states appear on a 2005 report of states with the highest percentage of rural road fatalities:

  • Maine (92%)
  • North Dakota (90%)
  • South Dakota (89%)
  • Iowa (88%)
  • Vermont (88%)
  • Montana (86%)
  • Wyoming (84%)
  • South Carolina (83%)
  • Mississippi (82%)
  • Arkansas (81%)
  • West Virginia (80%)
  • Minnesota (72%)
  • Wisconsin (68%)

If you’d like to check the safety of the roads in your neighborhood or on your commuting route, there’s a terrific tool developed by University of Minnesota researchers which allows you to do just that. It combines information from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System with Google Maps to offer a visual representation of traffic safety across the U.S. You can enter an address and view the roads that have the highest number of traffic fatalities in a specified area, or you can view data for your state.
Most dangerous road in the world
As treacherous as some U.S. roads can be, they pale in comparison with Bolivia’s Death Road, a 60 to 70 kilometer mountainous stretch between La Paz and Coroico, which is often cited as the most dangerous road in the world. It’s been the subject of numerous televised reports – watch a 6 minute clip: