VACATION IDEAS: ROAD TRIPS
5 Unusually Dangerous—and 5 Especially Safe—Places to Drive
Thinking about hitting the road on your next vacation? Be careful out there. Not every country (or state) has the same safety standards that you may be used to. We spanned the globe and found five places where you might want to stay off the streets—and five places that are exceptionally safe.
Regardless how "streetwise" you are at home, "streetwise" means something very different when the streets you're traveling are unlit or risky ribbons of roads, clinging to a cliff top. In many parts of the world, roads are poorly maintained and you'll have to share the lane with beasts, bikes, and abandoned vehicles. Even here in America, there are places where drivers should pay extra attention to the road. We wanted to get to the bottom of exactly where caution should be taken, and found five places with perils you may not have ever considered, from South American back roads with poor track records to the most dangerous driving destinations in the U.S. We've also found five destinations that are a delight to drive, from shiny European superhighways to some of the finest roads in the Americas. So, whichever direction you're headed in, buckle up and have a safe trip.
5 Unusually Dangerous Places to Drive
Carjacking capital of the world
South Africa has some of Africa's most beautiful coastline, a stunning subtropical climate, and an abundance of wildlife. It also has one of the world's highest rates of carjackings. According to police statistics, 10,627 carjackings occurred in the country of 50 million last year—half in tiny Gauteng Province, home to Johannesburg and Pretoria. But before you cancel your flight, keep in mind that most victims are not seriously injured and that there are things you can do to decrease your carjacking odds. The situation is so dire that residents can legally attach small flamethrowers to cars to repel carjackers (this is definitely not standard on rental cars). Less extreme precautions include watching for signs marking "carjacking blackspots or hotspots," keeping doors locked while driving, and not stopping for apparent accidents, vehicles that have broken down, or even cars with blue lights—they're not necessarily police. Weigh up whether to stop at red lights in high-risk areas, especially at night; risk a fine instead of a hijack. More than 8.3 million people visited South Africa last year, over 432,000 of them from the Americas. Well over a third of those visitors from the Americas were repeat visitors, proving South Africa's appeal outweighs its potential risks.
The nation's most dangerous roads
If you're making for Mississippi, slow down and buckle up. Statistically, with almost 27 road deaths per 100,000 Mississippians, the state languishes at the bottom of the list in the U.S. when it comes to safe roads. Unlit rural roads, high speeds, and lack of seatbelt usage are prime culprits. More than half of those who died on Mississippi's roads in 2010 were not wearing a seatbelt and, according to a Reader's Digest study, Mississippi was one of the deadliest states due to speeding. It is also one of 11 states where texting while driving is not against the law (though it is illegal if you are driving with a learning permit or temporary license). The state senate approved bans on texting as well as using handheld phones while driving in 2011, but the bills were rejected by the House Judiciary Committee in July 2012.
Back Roads of Bolivia
Some of the world's most perilous back roads
The quality of back roads of Bolivia is far from what we're used to in the US. The landlocked South American nation's thoroughfares tend to be narrow, two-lane roads with bone-jarring potholes, no shoulder, aggressive drivers, and a melee of donkeys, ox carts, dogs, horses, and pedestrians sharing roadways. One—North Yungas Road—has been nicknamed "El Camino del Muerte." In other words, Road of Death, due to the shocking numbers of buses, cars, and trucks that have plunged over the edge and into the valleys below. Clinging to near sheer cliff-faces, with no guardrails and 2,600-foot drops yawning below, the road has become notorious for its high death count. A sliver of a 43-mile track built by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930s, El Camino has claimed thousands of victims as it snakes its way round hairpin bends from capital La Paz to the Amazon town of Coroico.
The deadliest animal in North America
Every year, there are about 1 million collisions with deer on U.S. roads, more than 100,000 of them in Pennsylvania, where the odds of hitting a deer are one in 86. The deadliest month for deer collisions is November, when male deer have fighting and mating on their minds. So turn up your high beams and watch for posted deer crossing signs, particularly between 6 and 9 p.m. While deer hit the headlines in Pennsylvania as well as neighboring West Virginia, Alaska had a grim bumper winter for moose collisions. By February, over 600 winter moose collisions had been recorded. Back on the East Coast, New Hampshire is a bad state to be a moose, with around 250 moose-car encounters annually; a hefty figure considering the state's moose population is only 6,000 strong.