5 min read
Many truckers have stories about the scariest stretches of highway for truck drivers. Everyone knows driving a semi-truck is not like driving a car or pick up. I've done some truck driving myself and I know the chill that runs down your spine when remembering tight situations I had to get out of. What most people don't realize is truck drivers face a lot more than other drivers. The road itself can be more dangerous than being in fast-moving, tight traffic. There are some pretty scary roads that truck drivers try to avoid because they're so dangerous.I thought I'd do some research and see where the top ten scariest stretches of highway for truck drivers are in America.
Located between the towns of Ouray and Silverton, Colorado, this 25-mile section of Highway 550 in the Southwestern corner of the state is famous for its steep, winding contours that lack guardrails and shoulder space. In good weather, this scenic slice of heaven can be challenging for any veteran driver, but in bad weather, this road turns into a death trap for many. Stray too far afield and you're headed down a steep mountainside with no chance of recovery.
The road between Glenwood Springs and Granite, Colorado is the next entry in pants-soiling roadways. Colorado Highway 82 rises to over 12,000 feet in elevation and is a magnificent achievement of road engineering that twists and turns through canyons and alongside rapid-filled creeks. That's the problem; the twists and turns on the road also come with steep drop-offs and tight curves. There are some narrow stretches along the way that can be quite challenging and oversize loads are warned against traveling the thoroughfare.
California is home to some pavement that carries a name that leaves no doubt about the road's danger level. California State Route 138 had averaged almost a death a month up until 2006. Running from I-5 east to I-15 north of Los Angeles, state authorities decided the curving, steep two-lane byway was more than most drivers could handle and began making many safety improvements to reduce the number of fatalities. Despite all their efforts, the locals still call the road "The Highway of Death" ... and for good reason.
High up in the Rocky Mountains, near the ski resort of Park City, Utah lies the grade many truck drivers will go 100 miles out of their way to avoid. The 8-lane divided highway is home to some of the busiest traffic in America as it crosses the high mountain meadows and drops down into the Salt Lake Valley. The steep grade has a few runaway truck emergency lanes for those unlucky enough to lose their brakes on the fast-moving downslope. Winter weather can make this section of I-80 impossible to drive through and flatland truckers are best off to avoid attempting this challenge.
The Oregon Coast Highway, aka Highway 101, runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and has some of the most amazing views and landscapes to be seen in all of America. The problem is that this road twists and turns like an Anaconda in some sections. Steep mountains that fall into the ocean make for challenging curves and narrow pathways along the route. With a number of miles limited to two-lane travel, this landmark road keeps truck drivers on their toes along its entire length. Rainstorms and tourists make this a slower and more precarious drive than I-5, located 5o miles to the east.
The James Dalton Highway in Alaska is one of the most remote and dangerous roads in the world. Featured on the television series _Ice Road Truckers_, there are a lot of stories with tragic endings for truckers turning their hand to the challenge. Driving the 414 miles from Fairbanks to Dead Horse can only be accomplished during the winter when the lakes freeze over. Only the bravest, or most foolhardy, truck drivers attempt to tame this monument to tenacity, skill, and courage.
Once again, I-15 has a special place for truck drivers to avoid whenever possible. It's located in the great state of Wyoming, just to the east of Laramie. This portion of the Lincoln Highway travels east-west through the Rocky Mountains, rising up from Cheyenne and topping the peaks in the Medicine Bow National Forest before dropping sharply down into Laramie. Turning back and forth through the steep slopes is extremely challenging in inclement weather and the downgrade will test even the freshest set of brakes. No wonder truck drivers who regularly drive this route consider themselves some of the "Top hands" in trucking.
Northern Montana is home to a portion of US Route 2 called the "High-Line". It is the northernmost highway in the United States and runs parallel to the Canadian border. What makes this road dangerous is its exposure to the elements and long distances between towns. This is not a good place to get caught in a ground blizzard in the middle of winter. Every year, there are reports of vehicles being found alongside the highway with dead drivers in them having gone into the barrow pit and been covered by snow and snowplows. Dark, moonless nights combined with wandering cattle and deer make driving safely a constant challenge.
In the eastern parts of the United States, it's not the terrain that makes driving dangerous as much as the traffic. Trucks and automobiles can be jammed together so tightly that gridlock occurs during certain times of the day. Truck drivers are particularly challenged due to the number of vehicles they must avoid while traversing the driving lanes and exits. It's interesting to note that the stretch of I-95 near Fredericksburg, Virginia was tagged as the worst traffic spot in America recently, surpassing Boston, New York, and New Jersey for the distinction.
For 11 miles of US 129 that runs from the North Carolina/Tennessee border to Deals Gap, North Carolina, there are more curves than you'd find at a Miss America competition. Locals brag about there being over 300 curves which make the road a real workout for the upper arms and chest muscles. Truck drivers have to stay on their toes to avoid wandering, swerving, or sliding into other traffic as they negotiate the seemingly endless twists and turns. Beautiful scenery from the surrounding countryside can be a real distraction at a time when it's important to focus on the task at hand.
Every time I drive down a steep, winding road at night in bad weather, I think about doing it in a vehicle that weighs about 8 tons pulling a trailer that weighs from 5 to 10 times as much. Truck drivers know that in some situations, the tractor pulling the trailer is actually being pushed by the trailer and the truck driver can only hope to steer it in the right direction to avoid a crash. Winding your way through hills or a maze of traffic each has its own dangers. When you throw bad weather, mechanical failures, and other unknown but equally dangerous factors into the equation, you quickly realize you're throwing the dice every time you get behind the wheel.
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