The World’s Most Challenging Roads
Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand
Driving on gravel is different to driving on asphalt; driving on a gravel road with no passing space if you encounter another vehicle (and a drop of up to 100m down to the river below) is another matter again! The Skippers Canyon Road actually requires a permit to drive it – as well as good driving skills and a distinct lack of fear. Whilst in theory it has the same speed limit as other public roads, in practice you’re unlikely to go faster than about 20km/h.
The Trollstigen, Norway
One of the most famous roads in the world, the Trollstigen (meaning Troll’s Ladder) is a popular tourist destination with an incline of 10% and eleven hair-pin bends. There are other similarly serpentine roads in the world, of course, but this one has around 2,500 vehicles using it daily at peak tourist season, meaning that you not only have to deal with the road, but also with the other road users.
Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road
In some parts of the world, there are roads which only open for a few months of the year; ice roads over frozen lakes, rivers and even oceans. One such is the Tuktoyaktuk Ice Road, which takes drivers over the frozen Mackenzie River to the Univialuit village of Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast. As viewers of the popular show Ice Road Truckers will know, driving on ice has its own particular challenges that you won’t find on an ordinary highway.
Gunbarrel Highway, Australia
The Gunbarrel Highway is an isolated desert track in the heart of the Australian outback. It was built in part to provide access for nuclear weapons research, and in the process created the first east-west road link across the centre of the country. It’s a massive stretch of track through an incredibly isolated landscape, and requires not only concentrated attention but also exceptional self-sufficiency; settlements are few and far between. Once you leave Carnegie Station it’s 489km before you reach Warburton – so if you break down or run out of fuel, help is a long way away.
Arica to Iquique Road, Chile
Ruta 5 between Arica and Iquique is a notoriously dangerous drive; although it’s a two lane, paved highway and it doesn’t have any particularly obvious hazards, it’s caused an astonishing number of accidents, and memorials can be found along the side of the road highlighting the sheer number of fatalities. So what’s the danger of this road? Partially, the fact that it’s in the middle of a largely featureless landscape, which can mean drivers miscalculate their speed and then lose control on a steep drop-off. Some sections are also exposed to strong cross-winds; a particular hazard to high-sided vehicles. Just to add to the challenge, petrol stations are few and far between, so if you don’t plan properly you can find yourself stranded.
The A285, England
That sleepy tree-lined road we mentioned right at the beginning? It’s a twelve mile stretch between Chichester and Petworth which appears to be perfectly ordinary. It passes through typical villages and open countryside, taking you deep into the heart of the South Downs National Park. According to the statistics, however, it’s the most dangerous road in the country, with serious and fatal accidents increasing by 16% between 2007 and 2012. The lesson is: never underestimate the dangers of any road.
Wherever you’re driving, it’s essential that you’re properly prepared for the particular challenges of your route, whether that means knowing the exact hazards of the landscape, predicting the behaviour of other drivers or simply carrying enough fuel. Whilst most fleet drivers don’t face extreme roads where lack of fuel could be a life and death situation, it is always a commodity you need to manage carefully.