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With more than 39.5 million people calling California their home combined with tourists and other visitors, California’s freeways, interstates, and highways are perennially congested with traffic. California’s transportation infrastructure ranges from wide city avenues, numerous interstates and freeways, winding beach roads, and major highways, allowing plenty of routes for people to choose to travel to their destinations.

Motor vehicle accidents can happen anywhere. However, there are some interstates and other roads that are more dangerous than others. Multiple factors increase the risks of accidents on certain roads, including traffic congestion, speed limits, narrow lanes, poor visibility, difficulty navigating, and others. In 2020, 3,723 people were killed in traffic collisions in California, which was a sharp increase over the 3,540 traffic deaths that occurred in the state in 2019.

The population density of California makes it unsurprising that the state is known for traffic problems. Unfortunately, many motor vehicle collisions in the state result in serious injuries or fatalities each year. A recent study also found that California is home to three of the most dangerous freeways in the nation. Understanding which roads are the most dangerous might help people to exercise added caution when they drive on them and potentially avoid being involved in collisions. Here are some of the most dangerous freeways and roads in California.

Most Dangerous Interstates Running Through California

Using 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Fatal Accident Reporting System, The Zebra analyzed the information to determine which freeways were the most dangerous in the U.S. and found that three out of the top 10 deadliest freeways are located in California. Interstates 5, 15, and 80 in California were ranked in the top 10, and Interstate 5 was ranked as the third most dangerous freeway in the U.S. Here is some information about each of these dangerous freeways and how to avoid road and freeway accidents.


I-5 runs through several counties in California, including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento before passing out of the state into Oregon and Washington. In 2019, 186 people died in traffic accidents on Interstate 5. This freeway is notoriously congested with both passenger vehicles and semi-trucks, making it more dangerous for people traveling along with it.


Interstate 15 is the freeway that stretches from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Nevada, and it is ranked as the sixth deadliest freeway in the U.S. The Zebra reports that 158 people were killed along this interstate in 2019 for a fatality rate of 11.02 per 100 miles of travel. Since I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is a long, straight road running through the desert, visibility is good. People can see for miles while they drive. Unfortunately, however, many drivers react by speeding and engaging in distracted driving while traveling along this freeway.


Interstate 80 is a transcontinental freeway that runs from San Francisco to Teaneck, New Jersey. The stretch in California is also among the most dangerous in the U.S. This freeway was ranked as the ninth deadliest freeway in the U.S. in 2019 with 209 fatalities and a fatality rate of 7.21 per 100 miles traveled.

The study looked at 2019 data because the full data from 2020 and 2021 has not been released yet by the NHTSA. In addition to this study, statistics demonstrate that fatalities increased in 2020 despite the fact that fewer people traveled during that year because of the pandemic. In 2020, 38,680 people were killed in U.S. traffic accidents, which was an increase of 7.2% over 2019. The fatalities increased even though people traveled 13% fewer miles during that year on average.

Other Dangerous Highways in California

If you do not regularly travel on the three most dangerous freeways in California, that does not mean that the routes you travel are relatively safe. Numerous other roads in California are known for their dangers, including those listed below.

U.S. Route 199

U.S. Route 199 stretches from U.S. 101 near Crescent City, California to I-5 near Grant’s Pass, Oregon. This 80-mile road, which is also called Redwood Highway, boasts beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, its narrow, winding lanes and distracting views result in many accidents every year, including some motorists running off the road and colliding into trees.

California Highway 1

California Highway 1 runs along the coast of California and is the longest route running through the state at 656 miles. When you drive along this highway, you can take in beautiful views of the coast and sheer cliffs. However, this highway’s narrow, winding stretches are as dangerous as they are beautiful. Drivers are frequently distracted by the views, and rockslides and mudslides sometimes happen because of rain. Since some of this highway also stretches along stunning cliffs, some motorists have fatal accidents when they run off of the road.

State Route 138

Nicknamed ‘Blood Alley’, State Route 138 runs from Palmdale, California to I-15. This highway follows along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and features steep landscapes, drop-offs, and sharp turns. Improvements to the road started in 2006 to improve its visibility and safety, but it still is a dangerous road for motorists.

State Route 99

State Route 99 runs through the Central Valley and is known as one of the most dangerous roads in California. In one study that looked at fatality data from 2015 to 2017, Route 99 was found to be the third-deadliest road in California behind I-5 and US-101 with 110 fatalities. Many of the fatal accidents that happen along this highway occur near Fresno, but other stretches of the highway are also dangerous. This road has poor visibility, and drunk driving is also an issue.

U.S. Route 101

U.S. Route 101 offers spectacular views that can distract drivers and turn a sight-seeing trip into a deadly event. It was ranked as the second deadliest road in California between 2015 and 2017 with 139 fatalities.

State Route 2

State Route 2 reaches an elevation of 7,903 feet, and some areas along the Angeles Crest Highway are known to be especially dangerous because of the many blind curves and switchbacks. During the winter months, certain sections of this highway are frequently closed for lengthy periods because of heavy snow.

State Route 78

Running through San Diego County, State Route 78 is a fairly short highway at just 215 miles long. Even though it is short, many fatal accidents happen on it, making it dangerous in terms of the density of fatal accidents that occur on it.

Avoiding Collisions

For many Californians, avoiding these dangerous roads and freeways is not possible. If you know that you will have to drive on these or other busy or dangerous highways, it is important for you to remain extra vigilant while you drive. Some of the things that you can do to avoid accidents include the following:

  • Follow all traffic laws.
  • Do not speed.
  • Never drive while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Watch for motorists on entry lanes and those who are preparing to change lanes.
  • Keep your attention focused on the road.
  • Do not use your phone while driving.
  • Pull off at scenic outlooks instead of slowing down to gawk.
  • Do not drive faster than the conditions allow.
  • Always practice defensive driving.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Pull off the road and rest when you are tired.

Talk to an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been involved in a collision that was not your fault, you might be entitled to pursue compensation through a personal injury claim. People who are injured and the families of people who are killed in accidents caused by negligence might be able to recover damages to compensate them for their losses. It is important to act quickly, however. California has strict statutes of limitations in place, and evidence can be lost as time passes. If you have been seriously injured, you should speak to an attorney at the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC as soon as possible. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 866-966-5240.

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