Accident News Graphic

What are the Deadliest Highways and Freeways in California?

It’s no surprise that California has some dangerous highways

 Top 12 Deadliest Highways, Freeways or Roads in CaliforniaFive of the top 50 most dangerous highways in the United States are right here in California.

It’s certainly no surprise given the population of the Golden State at 40 million people, is larger some countries and represents more than 10 percent of the US population. The dangerous highway news comes from ValuePengin, a finance website, gathered data gathered on traffic accidents between 2006 and 2011 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a ranking of the country’s most dangerous highways.

Certainly traffic accidents can happen anywhere, but there are some highways that are much more dangerous than others. Sharp curves, narrow traffic lanes, traffic congestion, visibility issues, and other conditions raise the risk of a collision for motorists. It’s important that your brakes and tires are regularly checked and serviced before you hit the road, but more so when driving through mountainous areas.

The state of California reported around 3,651 motor-vehicle deaths in 2018, a small increase over the prior year. The majority of deaths took place in passenger cars as they are more abundant on the roads than other vehicles. Light trucks and then motorcycles represented a smaller portion of these deaths.

Top 5 Most Dangerous Highways in California

Interstate 5 Freeway

Dangerous highways in CaliforniaTopping the list of California’s most dangerous highways and ranking No. 4 on the nationwide list, the Interstate 5 freeway runs from the border at Mexico through the Central Valley and all the way until it ends in Oregon, according to the report.

Known by local Californians as simply “The 5,” roughly one million drivers use a portion of this 800-mile-long freeway to commute to work or school every day.

Most travelers driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles will use this freeway to get there quickly. It’s also heavily used by semi-tractor trailer trucks and this can be a concern for drivers of passenger cars who are no match for these massive vehicles if there is a collision.

The Daily Beast reports that over a 4-year-period from 2010 to 2016 there were roughly 680 fatal crashes with 768 fatalities on the I-5 Freeway or roughly 200 deaths per year on average.

The majority of the fatalities on the I-5 Freeway are located in Los Angeles County, the report said.

California State Route 2

Dangerous California HighwaysThis highway stretches from Santa Monica to ranks 14th on the list of top 50 most dangerous highways in America. There were 52 fatal collisions and 54 deaths on this roadway in the national 4-year study and the majority of them took place in Los Angeles County. The most dangerous stretch of the highway is the Angeles Crest Highway portion.

The 66-mile stretch, built in 1929, is a two-lane paved roadway that is also one of the most scenic drives in the USA. It’s also one of the highest elevations in California as it winds through the Angeles National Forest with treacherous twists and turns on mountainous roads. Winter driving is also impacted by snow and ice that make driving even more difficult. Many of the collisions on this highway involved a driver going off the side of a cliff or head-on crashes where a driver is making an unsafe pass on this two-lane roadway.

US Highway 101

This beautiful scenic highway ranked 16th on the list of most dangerous American highways with 597 fatal crashes and 643 deaths. The most dangerous portion of the roadway was located in Santa Clara County. You may recognize this highway’s name in popular songs over the years including America’s “Ventura Highway,” but once you drive along this 808-mile roadway you’ll discover its intoxicating coastal views  Also boasting the busiest freeway interchange in the world at its southern terminus in Los Angeles and the northern gateway to Silicon Valley from San Francisco, it’s easy to see why this road gets so much traffic. The amazing views are truly remarkable but this stretch of road is also a magnet for fatal car accidents. Averaging a fatality for every 1.3 miles over 7 years puts it near the top of the list of most dangerous highways found anywhere. Somewhat ironically, the average delay for emergency services on this road are about the lowest in the nation averaging only a 4-minute delay. Both congestion and terrain contribute to the dangerous nature of this road. Avoid traveling on the busiest day of the week, Wednesday, as well as during the commuter hours from 8-9 a.m. and 6-7 p.m.

Interstate 8 Freeway

Stretching from San Diego to the Arizona border, the Border Friendship Route as the Interstate 8 is also known, is a gateway to the Southwest that takes motorists for for roughly 170 miles through California. In a four-year period of time from 2010 to 2016, 134 fatal collisions happened on I-8, resulting in 145 fatalities. This was enough to rank number 39 on a list of the deadliest highways and freeways in the entire country. Some of the hazards faced by motorists on this roadway include heavy gusts of wind up to 100 mph in the Devils Canyon and In-Ko-Pah Gorge sections just east of San Diego.

Another concern while driving on this freeway is smugglers and border runners near the Interior Border Checkpoint by Alpine.  There are at times high speed chases on the wrong side of the road as suspects try to bypass the checkpoint.

Golden State Route 99

Not only is it one of the most dangerous roads in California with 411 fatal collisions and 461 fatalities between 2010 to 2016, Highway 99 reports an average of 62 fatal accidents of every 100 miles with most of the fatalities occurring in Kern County. It even topped a 2018 list of deadliest 100-mile highways in the United States for a stretch that goes through Fresno. The 424-mile roadway is a connection for motorists traveling to and from rural communities from the eastern part of the Central Valley.  The dimly lit rural areas this highway passes through may contribute to the high mortality rate, but also a lot of drunken drivers use this road.

State Route 78

Ranking at No. 49 on the list of most dangerous highways, this San Diego County highway reports 62 crashes and 75 deaths. Starting in Oceanside and stretching 215 miles to Blythe, SR-78 connects the heavily populated northern end of San Diego county to the Cuyamaca Mountains. Along the way it winds through Escondido, towards more mountainous areas through Julian and Anzo Borrego State Park and Banner Grade hill on its way to Blythe.

Notable Dangerous California Highways

California State Route 138

Dangerous Roads California 138Located in Southern California, state Route 138 stretches through both San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. The eastern stretch of this highway is particularly dangerous as it goes through many mountainous sections dotted with twists and major turns. The highway ranked No. 8 on a list of America’s most dangerous roads, according to Popular Mechanics.

Interstate 15 Freeway

A popular route for both Californians and Nevadans is the Interstate 15 Freeway. Every year millions of people are transported between Las Vegas and Los Angeles on this freeway. This freeway ranked 10th on the list of America’s most dangerous roads compiled by Popular Mechanics. Additionally, this freeway was also identified as one of America’s deadliest roads in 2010 by Scripps Howard News Service’s “Killer Roads” project.

Interstate 10 Freeway

In 2010 the Daily Beast ranked Interstate 10 in California the 5th most dangerous highway in the Country. I-10 runs from Santa Monica, through L.A. to the Arizona border. The dangers you can encounter on this route include drunk drivers, poor road conditions, congestion, an distracted drivers, among others.

Interstate 80 Freeway

This freeway is the second-longest in the United States crossing 11 states over 2,899 miles from California to New Jersey. On the western terminus in San Francisco up until it cross the first border near Reno in Nevada, there is high volume of vehicles and some dangerous stretches through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The California stretch, however, is not considered as dangerous as the path it runs through Nebraska, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Nevada. Those states reported 16 fatal crashes each year on their section of the interstate.

Interstate 40 Freeway

Interstate 40 stretches from the East Coast to the West Coast crossing from North Carolina to California, much of which mirrors the historic Route 66. The 155-mile California portion is located in San Bernardino County where it is called Needles Freeway. It’s also considered one of the deadliest highways in the U.S. Indeed, over a 4-year period there were 110 fatalities reported on this roadway.

Mineral King Road

People traveling to Sequoia National Park will drive this 24-mile stretch of blind turns and narrow traffic lanes with no shoulders to access the many camping areas here. This roadway is not meant for larger vehicles, but there are still some people who drive RVs and larger trucks through these narrow lanes. Most crashes here are blamed on speed, vehicles too large to fit the roadway and hazardous road conditions.

Highway 49

There is a 15-mile stretch of this 40-mile highway in Merced County that is known for its head-on collisions. It’s found between Bear Valley and Coulterville where sharp turns and winding roadways are no match for inexperienced motorists or drivers who are not familiar with this area. Many who are unfamiliar with the area will drive dangerously slow and mixed in with faster drivers who are from the area it can be a deadly combination. There are also many motorcyclists who enjoy all the twists and turns and like other motorists they will attempt to pass the slower-moving vehicles and wind up in a  head-on crash.

Johnson Attorneys Group Offers a Free Consultation

California Dangerous HighwaysIf you have been injured in an accident that occurred on one of these or any other roadway in California, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible, as you may be entitled to financial compensation. To request a free consultation, call 800-235-6801 or contact us online.



James Johnson

Website graphic for the California Injury Accident Lawyer

No Fees Unless You Win

Connect with us
Copyright © 2023, Johnson Attorneys
Group. All rights reserved.
SEO and Webdesign by Clixsy
Suite 5100
Newport Beach, CA 92660