The Most Dangerous Roads in Colorado Aren’t Where You Think
POSTED BY Scott O’Sullivan
January 20, 2017
Colorado is blessed with beauty! It’s a big reason many of us live here and why people are moving here in droves. Just jump in your car, head west and you can be surrounded by some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world! But some of those roads can also be treacherous. As a personal injury lawyer in Denver, I thought I’d write an article about dangerous roads in Colorado, and also about the ways that we are making Colorado roads more dangerous! Read on…
Let’s Get High!
Noooo, that’s not what I meant, even though we are in Colorado. I meant that our state has some of the highest, scariest roads in the country. How many of Colorado’s top ten highest roads have you driven, hiked or biked?
(Thanks to DangerousRoads.org for help with this list. See their website for a much more extensive round-up.)
When you’re driving on dangerous mountain roads in Colorado, the number-one way to stay safe is to drive slowly. Never exceed the speed limit, nor your ability to manage your car on the difficult terrain.
Dangerous roads in Colorado
Million Dollar Highway
I have to add a special section in this article about the Million Dollar Highway, because it is so spectacular and also very dangerous in stretches. More and more people are flocking to it to take in the incredible views, but we all need to appreciate and respect the road’s hairpin turns, drop-offs and weather-related challenges.
The Million Dollar Highway runs 25 miles across western Colorado and follows U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray. There are several legends as to how the road got its name:
Some say it cost a million dollars to build the road “back in the day,” because it carves its way through and across so many high mountains.
Others say the fill dirt for the road includes a million dollars’ worth of gold ore.
Another legend says the road is named in honor of the nearby mining towns that boomed during the gold rush.
Locals joke, “You’d have to pay me a million dollars to drive that road in the snow!”
Clearly, the road is the stuff of legends, thanks to its status as one of the most gorgeous in the country… but this is one of the dangerous roads in Colorado that should be traversed with caution.
What are some of the hazards on the Million Dollar Highway?
Here are a few things to watch out for when you’re driving U.S. 550 from Silverton to Ouray.
The road: Namely, keep your eyes on the road! There are spots where one slip could topple your car off the edge and down hundreds of feet of rough terrain. Let your passengers enjoy the scenery, while you keep everyone safe.
Weather: Colorado weather is known for its mood swings. Even in lower elevations, we can be surprised when a clear day turns into an afternoon thunderstorm in minutes. Those conditions are much more severe and scarier when you’re on the side of the mountain. Just as mountaineers are told not to start their ascent too late, you should start your drive early, when Colorado’s skies tend to be milder. Also, check the weather before you go.
Rock slides: When you carve a road into a mountain, you’re going to upset some rocks. And as erosion continues, the rocks shift. If you start seeing rock debris on the side of the road, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open for tumbling rocks. (Check out this video of a rock slide on the Million Dollar Highway!)
Why Are Roads in Colorado More Dangerous Than Ever?
Now for my soapbox. (Hey, I’m a lawyer; when I write a blog, I must include something about safety.)
I’m saddened and annoyed to report that Colorado’s roads are more dangerous than ever, because drivers are making stupid mistakes and choices. Isn’t it crazy that I can title a blog “Most Dangerous Roads in Colorado” and then report that our own neighborhoods are more dangerous than roads like the Million Dollar Highway or Mosquito Pass? It doesn’t make sense.
In April 2016, the Colorado Department of Transportation released its Problem Identification Report. The document includes statistics from 2014, which are the most recent compiled stats that we have.
Here are some alarming numbers from that report:
488 people were fatally injured in 2014, a 1.5% increase from 2013.
There were 12,323 injury crashes, a 28 percent increase from 2013.
164 of 319 (51%) motor vehicle occupants who died in a fatal crash in 2014 were not using seat belts or other restraints.
530 of the 1,941 (27%) motor vehicle occupants who were seriously injured in a crash in 2014 were not using seat belts or other restraints.
There were 168 speeding-related fatalities, comprising 34% of all fatalities.
In 2014, there were 160 estimated fatalities where a driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) equal to or over 0.08; corresponding to a 13% increase from 2013.
Driving without a seatbelt? Driving while impaired? Speeding? Why? Whywhywhy? These are injuries and deaths that could have been easily prevented. Instead, statistics show that Colorado roads are becoming more dangerous than ever.
Please take the easy precautions available to you to prevent car accidents, motorcycle accidents, injuries and deaths.
OK, now I’m off my soapbox… back to pretty pictures of Colorado’s beautiful back country!