White-knuckle roads

| May 07, 2008

In the last decade, Oklahoma DOT has recorded 20 fatal traffic collisions on one stretch of highway in Tulsa; in April 2007, a trucker died in a collision with another trucker’s rig near Miami, Okla.; and on an icy day this February, there was a 12-car pile-up south of Springfield, Mo.

While I-44 in Missouri was named one of the most improved roads in the country in Overdrive magazine’s 2006 reader survey, its danger lies less in its structure than its environment, says Dora Colvin.

“My husband hates I-44 because of the hills and the rain,” she says. “That road is quite dangerous. They’ve had a horrendous amount of ice on that road for the past couple of years. You’ve got the Ozarks and all that beauty; consequently you’ve got all those hills. In wet conditions, that’s quite a highway to deal with.”

In Missouri, find out road conditions on MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map (maps.modot.mo.gov). In Oklahoma, the Department of Public Safety offers a map of weather conditions across the state (visit www.dps.state.ok.us, click “Oklahoma Weather-Related Road Conditions), or you can call (405) 425-2385 or (888) 425-2385 for the latest information.

Stay Safe on Dangerous Roads
Even when the notoriously dangerous roads are impossible to avoid, you can increase your odds of staying safe if you follow this advice from experienced drivers:

  1. Take the warnings seriously. “Any road has the potential of being dangerous if you don’t approach it with a great deal of respect,” says 2006 Company Equipment Driver of the Year and 43-year veteran driver Dora Colvin.

  2. Focus on protecting not only yourself but also the fellow drivers sharing the road. “I pray not only for our own safety but that we won’t cause a problem for somebody else,” Colvin says. “I leave everybody a wide berth, and I want them to do the same for me.”
  3. If the weather is too dangerous, don’t hesitate to stop and wait it out. “There’s no way to avoid [bad weather] other than pulling over and waiting till it gets better,” says Albert Adams, a 38-year veteran driver and 2007 captain of America’s Road Team.
  4. Even if the weather seems fine now, be mentally and physically prepared for the worst. “If it rains, especially in the summertime, you’re going to have the oils in the asphalt rise to the top, and that can create a very slick situation,” Adams says. “If the temperature is hovering close to the freezing point, that rain can also freeze on the road. Especially in the north up here, it might be 40 degrees outside, but the ground holds the cold temperatures. You’ve got to be extremely cautious.”
  5. Plan ahead. With the internet, satellite radio and 5-1-1 numbers, there are few excuses not to know the conditions up ahead and decide whether to take an alternate route, wait it out, or continue forward with caution. “Thank goodness with the internet we can see what’s going on ahead of us and stay away from the pack,” Colvin says. “If you get up where everyone is bumper to bumper, it becomes mob thought. I don’t like that feeling.”
  6. Drive at a safe speed – and that doesn’t necessarily mean slower than the traffic around you, says 20-year veteran driver Terry Robinson. “There are always some cowboys that feel they need to go faster than everyone else, but to me one of the biggest hazards I see out there are those that go way slower than everyone else.”
  7. Prepare for surprises. No road is perfect, and the dangers can be unexpected. “When you go East, you got people. When you get West, you get the elk,” says Dora Colvin. “North Dakota has its blizzards, and Kansas has its tornados. You just have to be alert to what the conditions are in the individual areas. You can’t fight a tornado!”

Roads Few Will Travel
Two of the most dangerous roads in North America are traveled by only a select few elite truckers. In recent years, Truckers News has covered both of these treacherous roads – the James B. Dalton Highway (more commonly known as the “Haul Road”), a rugged 414-mile stretch of road cutting through the wilds of Alaska, and Canada’s ice road, which leads truckers north from Yellowknife to isolated mining communities that can only be accessed in the winter, over frozen lakes.

Annual Owner-Operator Survey Ranks Troubled Roadways
By Todd Dills

Since 1991, Truckers News’ sister magazine Overdrive has tracked and reported on the state of the nation’s roadways in its annual Highway Report Card survey of its owner-operator readers.

Christened “Worst Roads” in that first survey, it now covers more than just roads. In addition to ranking the best and worst highways by state and segment, it also tallies states’ rest areas, truckstops, law enforcement and more.

Potholes, washboarding, high tolls and scarcity of truckstops and rest areas are just a few of the common marks survey respondents have placed on highways’ records.

For the second year in a row, in 2007 Louisiana topped the worst roads list, a spot above the all-time leading worst-roads “winner,” Pennsylvania.

Throughout the 1990s, the Keystone State’s DOT got an earful from Overdrive’s readers, resulting in significant improvements, particularly along I-80 and the turnpike.

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