I’ll be that you didn’t know that there is someone looking out for US citizens on the roads of the world. It is the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT). And yes, my immediate reaction was “who?” just like yours probably was.

“The Association for Safe International Road Travel (usually abbreviated as ASIRT) is a non-profit, humanitarian organization that promotes road travel safety through education and advocacy,” says their website. “Rochelle Sobel, president and founder of ASIRT, created the organization in 1995, in response to her son Aron’s death in a bus crash in Turkey. ASIRT helped found the US Congressional Caucus on Global Road Safety and is an internationally influential and active organization. Working under the premise that road crashes are predictable and preventable, ASIRT serves the global community within a variety of ways to help reduce injuries and deaths and the associated social and economic impacts that result from them.” So far, so good.

The initial list included 23 roads, but I pulled out five, including three dirt roads, that seemed less relevant. I have ridden some of the remaining eighteen, some fairly recently and some a few years ago.

Airport road near Rovinj in Istria, Croatia. As you can see it has been like this for a while. It is not on the list.

Here is the list with ASIRT comments in italics.  My comments are included after ASIRT’s, where I have some.

Brazil: Interstate 116. Potholes, poor signals and heavy traffic in southern Brazil.

I have no personal experience of this road, but according to friends who have, the heavy traffic and poor signals are only in the cities. The potholes are all over, it’s true. But that’s no different from hundreds of roads in Brazil.

 China: Sichuan-Tibet Highway. A rough, high-elevation road between Chengdu and Tibet where landslides and rock avalanches are common.

 Costa Rica: Pan American Highway. Called the Hill of Death, the stretch from San Isidro de El General to Cartago is full of potholes and steep curves.

Roadside safety barrier in Croatia.

Croatia: Coastal roads. Adriatic Coast roads are narrow, curvy, and congested, and many lack shoulders and guardrails.

No. I rode the coastal road through Croatia only a couple of years ago, and I have to admit that it does have its shortcomings – there really aren’t any guard rails or, in many cases, shoulders. But the surface is good and inland roads through the Velebit Mountains are far narrower and steeper, with tighter corners and unbelievably greasy road surfaces. Give me the coast road with its near-new surface any time.

Egypt: Luxor-al-Ghurdaqah road. Many crashes on this road to the Red Sea occur at night because Egyptians drive with headlights off.

This happens in India, too. I don’t know why Egyptians do it, but Indian drivers reckon it “saves the battery”.

 England: A44. More than 25% of crashes on the stretch linking Leominster and Worcester are head-on.

Yep, this is accepted as the road with the most fatalities by distance in the UK. I have ridden it a couple of times and thought it was just another reasonably well-maintained two-lane main road, but the figures don’t lie, I guess.

 Greece: Patiopoulo-Perdikaki road. A steep, gravel road with an unmarked edge in the Agrafa region.

It is true that this is a particularly bad road, but there must be dozens if not hundreds of roads like it in Greece and other countries.

A feeder road to the Grand Trunk Road in northern India. Doesn’t look too bad.

India: Grand Trunk Road. Heavily used by trucks, the country’s busiest road is overloaded with ox carts, animals, bicycles and pedestrians.

Nah. This selection must be based on pretty old information. Yes, I can remember when stretches of the subcontinent’s main road were surfaced like a road train route in the Northern Territory – a single strip of tar, wide enough for just one truck. But that’s 40 years in the past. Nowadays most of it is proper divided highway, and I find it hard to believe that it is anywhere near as dangerous as, say, Chandni Chowk in central Delhi.

Kenya: Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret Highway. More than 300 die annually in crashes commonly caused by speeding, improper passing and drunken driving.

 Morocco: Marrakesh-Agadir Road. Heavy truck traffic and buses and taxis that pass on steep, blind curves.

I know this road quite well, and really cannot understand its inclusion. Head to the east from Marrakesh, towards Tinerhir and Ksar es Souk, and you’ve got real problems; I actually came upon a bus that had just rolled (and I do mean rolled — all the way to the bottom of a very long hill) when I last rode that one. And try the Rabat-Meknes-Fes road, a bit further north, if you want traffic and especially heavy trucks. I nearly died on that one after a well-intentioned misdirection from a truck driver.

Namibia: Swakopmund-Walvis Bay road. Heavy truck traffic and frequent head-on collisions when drivers misjudge distance between vehicles while passing.

With a bit of luck I’ll be able to report on this one for you, next year.

 Nepal: Prithvi Highway. Landslides and road cave-ins during the rainy season are common on this narrow road with heavy traffic linking Kathmandu to Pokhara.

I could understand the problem if it was lack of attention being paid to the road – the scenery along here is just stunning as you ride along the main chain of the Himalayas. But the condition of the road was no worse than any other in the area when I last rode it, and better than most. I must admit that the comment about traffic is true; there are a lot of trucks on what is effectively Nepal’s main highway. But both of the roads from Nepal down to India are far worse.

Nigeria: Lagos-Ibadan-Ogbomosho-Ilorin-Jebba-Minna-Abiyo Expressway. A congested road with deep potholes and a median in disrepair that links northern and eastern Nigeria. Drivers may drive on the wrong side to avoid traffic.

Did you know that the country with the most wild camels is… Australia?

Pakistan: N-35 (Karakoram Highway). Landslides, floods and mud can block this northern Pakistan mountain road that passes through deep gorges and is a route to China.

 Scotland: A77. A winding single- and two-lane road in southwestern Scotland with varying speed limits and many fatal crashes.

Rode this one with Mrs Bear when we did our Scotland trip. I can’t argue with the contention that there have been many fatal crashes; quite likely that’s true if I remember the road correctly. But there are so many one-lane roads in Scotland that I remember as being significantly worse that I’m still inclined to question this one.

 Spain: Carretera Nacional N340. A narrow Costa del Sol coastal road where drunken drivers and tourists unaccustomed to driving on the right have caused many crashes.

Okay, I am not going to argue with this. Although I am quite sure that I have ridden worse roads in Spain, the combination of drunks and tourists (and often drunken tourists) is enough to scare anybody.

 South Africa: N3. Between Warden in Free State Province and the bottom of Van Reenen’s Pass in KwaZulu-Natal Province, there’s a high crash rate because of fog, rain, wind and winding stretches.

Turkey: Bodrum-Milas-Soke road. Winding coastal road without barriers on many stretches that’s especially dangerous when wet.

I haven’t ridden this for quite a while, but I recall it as an admittedly winding (and gravel) road running through some wonderful scenery with little traffic. For the life of me I can’t imagine that it would be any more dangerous than the main highway between Ankara and Istanbul, or the even more badly surfaced road from Erzurum across the Pontine Mountains to Trabzon. And both of the latter are much busier and full of trucks, which this road was not.

As you can probably tell from my comments, I cannot work out how most of these roads were chosen. Some of them look as if they have been copied from other ‘bad-road’ websites, even down to the wording. It is possible that the selection came from ASIRT’s function of ‘collecting and disseminating road fatality statistics of U.S. citizens abroad by country and making information available on the U.S. State Department website’. But… was it the number of US citizens who died on them? Seems unlikely; how many Americans would be on the Karakoram Highway, or the N3 in South Africa? I don’t have a better explanation, though. This is intriguing. Any ideas?


(Photos by The Bear)

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