California Has 3 of the U.S.’s 10 Most Dangerous Roads 

According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSTA), in 2020 there were 1.37 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This is the highest fatality rate since 2007.  

Driving is inherently dangerous. But the likelihood of a crash can increase, depending on the road you travel. A recent study reviewed data released by the NHTSA, identifying which roads have the highest rates of fatal accidents. Three of the ten most dangerous highways run through California.  

Interstate 95 is the most dangerous highway in the United States.  

The researchers analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a database of all reported fatal car accidents maintained by the NHTSA. The study identifies the most dangerous highways based upon the rate of fatalities per 100/miles traveled and the total number of fatalities on a given road. 

The top 10 most dangerous highways in the United States are: 

Highway   Location   Fatalities/100 Miles 
I-95  Runs from Maine to Florida  14.88 
I-20  Runs from Texas to South Carolina  13.52 
I-5  Runs from Washington to Southern California  13.47 
I-75  Runs from Michigan to Florida   13.27 
I-35  Runs from Minnesota to Texas  12.56 
I-15  Runs from Montana to Southern California  11.02 
I-40  Runs from California to North Carolina   9.89 
I-70  Runs from Utah to Maryland  7.35 
I-80  Runs from California to New Jersey  7.21 
US-41  Runs from Wisconsin to Florida  7.02 

Interstate 5 is the third most dangerous road in the United States, and the most dangerous in California. 

Interstate 5 spans from San Ysidro, California to Blaine, Washington. Close to 800 of I-5’s more than 1,300 miles are in California.  

I-5 can be particularly dangerous due to high volume of traffic, as it runs through many major cities, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Rush hour evening traffic in these three cities alone – and especially in L.A. – raise the risk level for drivers. The National Safety Council (NSC) says a combination of fatigue, darkness, and traffic make driving during rush hour more dangerous than is typical.  

I-5 is also one of the most popular routes for big-rig drivers, a fact that makes the highway more dangerous for drivers and motorcycle riders. 

Danger also comes in the form of old, worn infrastructure. I-5 is showing its age. Repair crews can’t keep up with the more than 58 million miles of wear and tear suffered on a daily basis. The resulting poor road conditions are often cause for traffic slowdowns, and increasingly frequent lane closures as work crews attempt to apply temporary fixes.  

In California, roads all over the state are failing. 68% of California highways are in “Mediocre” or “Poor” condition and need repair.  

Similar issues plague Interstate 40 and Interstate 80, the other two California highways which rank on the top 10 most dangerous list. Heavy traffic and old infrastructure contribute to the fatality risk when driving on I-5, I-40, and I-80. 

Here are ways to increase safety when driving on a road which is busy, in disrepair, or is otherwise dangerous.  

It may not be possible to avoid a dangerous highway, but you can prepare yourself to drive more cautiously with these tips in mind.  

Plan Your Trip Ahead of Time: Even if you are just driving your daily commute, it’s important to plan ahead. Check the weather before you leave to prepare for driving in rain, heavy wind, snow, or fog. Bad weather and poor visibility only make driving more dangerous. Avoid driving in bad weather if you can.  

Don’t Drive Drowsy: Driving while tired can increase the likelihood of an accident. Our ability to react and focus worsens as we get tired, making it hard to drive. If you can avoid driving while tired, do so. If you feel that you are becoming tired while driving, pull over as soon as possible and look for a safe place to stop and rest.  

Follow The Rules of the Road: This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Follow the law while driving – doing so will allow you to drive safely.  

Some of the most dangerous highways in America run through California. It may not be possible to avoid these highways, as they transect not only much of California but much of the United States. When driving, always be aware of poor road conditions and potential road work going on around you. Always follow the rules of the road, don’t drive while drowsy, and avoid bad weather when possible. In general, these tips can help you reach your destination safely regardless of the road you drive on.  

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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