Winter is now upon us, the cold weather bringing with it the usual traffic chaos that clogs the UK’s road network every year. Slippery surfaces, travelling more often in darkness and the very real possibility of snow and ice, all conspire to increase the risk of an accident.
However, while you sit there in an endless tailback due to an accident – caused, inevitably, by yet another person following the car in front too closely – spare a thought for motorists elsewhere in the world. While there is no doubt our roads are congested, they are amongst the safest in the world.
Whether it’s terrible road surfaces, maniacal local drivers, or drops big enough to give Ranulph Fiennes vertigo, there are some carriageways that would test the nerve of even the most experienced driver.
Here’s a selection of the most dangerous roads from around the world:
The Yungas Road – Bolivia
Any highway that’s locally referred to as ‘Death Road’ is going to be bad. This 70km stretch from the Bolivian capital La Paz to the mountain town of Coroico is in most places a single dusty track, which turns into treacherously slippery mud with the frequent rains. With no guardrails along most of its length, drivers face drops – some as high as 600 metres – straight out of a Road Runner cartoon. Given the peril, it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that the Yungas Road claims between 200-300 lives annually, prompting it to be christened ‘the worlds most dangerous road’ in 1995.
Russian Federal Highway – Russia
Connecting Moscow in the West to the town of Yakutsk, deep in the Eastern Siberian tundra, this road is entirely un-paved due to conventional asphalt not being able to survive in the extreme permafrost. Despite a ten-month winter in the area, during which drivers have to contend with heavy snow and ice, as well as visibility-sapping fog, the most dangerous time to travel on the Russian Federal Highway is during the summer. Rain in the area turns the road to mud, bringing traffic to halt. Not dangerous in itself, but stricken motorists have to put up with the ‘Siberian Mud Pirates’, who dole out beatings and loot those who’ve become stuck.
Karakoram Highway – China and Pakistan
Running from the Pakistan garrison town of Abottabad to the Southern Chinese city of Kashgar, the Karokoram Highway is one of the world’s highest paved roads. The stunning scenery attracts pedestrians and cyclists, which don’t mix well with the heavy cargo lorries that barrel over the pass. Heavy snow, landslides and broken road surfaces are among the other delights drivers will find, provided they haven’t succumbed to altitude sickness by then.
Patiopuolo-Perdikaki Road – Greece
The road between Patiopoulo and Perdikaki in Greece is a perilous dirt track, choked with dust and riddled with wheel-bending pot holes. Either side of this narrow track lie sheer drops with no guardrails. Despite the obvious dangers, the road is a free-for-all, as cars, buses, trucks and even farmers herding livestock, all jostle for position. A lack of road markings also makes it difficult for drivers to determine the edge of the road at night, which is when most of the fatal accidents occur.
A682 – England
Despite being constructed from high-quality blacktop, and not stretching into the clouds, the benign-sounding A682 has seen over 100 fatalities since the year 2000, leading it to be crowned as the ‘UKs most dangerous road’ in 2007. The 14-mile stretch between junction 13 of the M65 and Long Preston, North Yorkshire, is particularly dangerous as a result of hidden junctions, blind turns and speeding traffic.