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Road Of Death

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

Road Of Death

Geoff Maxted
October 13, 2013

Road Of Death
Much is written on this subject and usually it forms part of the warnings and advice freely doled out to unwary drivers planning to travel beyond these shores, or indeed, just up the road.

For example, this writer has had a few personal experiences of the ‘Ruta de la Muerte’ - the N340 on the south coast of Spain. Fortunately there is a major highway for safety’s sake but it is easy to miss the turn out of Malaga and end up on the coast road at which point the hunched and terrified driver - white-knuckled hands gripping the unfamiliar rented steering wheel - will, even in these enlightened automotive days, still encounter massive trucks, sozzled Spaniards and boozy, beery Brits who left their brains behind in Bromsgrove.

Depending upon who you ask or where you are in the country, Spain has several ‘roads of death’ and the name can also be found in every other Spanish speaking country. In Norway they have the Trollstigen (The Troll Ladder - is it any wonder that trolls get such a bad press?) and Italy the Stelvio Pass. Even in the UK we have roads to die for and they are many and various. Mention Cat and Fiddle (pictured) to any local automotive health and safety officer and you’re sure to provoke a hyper-ventilating reaction. Basically, it depends where you live. The A682 between junction 13 of the M65 and Long Preston has a very bad reputation yet it doesn’t even appear on a survey of dangerous roads from a couple of years back. Obviously speed limits apply and work is done to slow drivers down and yet…

The road outside your children’s school could well head the list merely because you deem it so. There need not have been any injuries or fatalities - a near miss will turn mild-mannered parents into car-hating zealots overnight. This is an understandable reaction and this brings us to the point.

Traffic rules and regulations abound. Never a day seems to go by when there isn’t another restriction put in place and yet still people die on dangerous roads. Why? It’s a bit of a conundrum. Do some drivers and riders see these highways as a challenge? Does a red mist descend when the long and winding road appears? Whatever the cause, there seems to be a point at which the rules cease to have meaning to some people.

Most motorists understand the dangers inherent in operating a car. They enjoy their driving but draw the line at recklessness. Ultimately all roads are the most dangerous roads in the world. They are made dangerous by daredevils and the terminally stupid. The problem is, an attitude of mind is hard to legislate against. At some point we need to learn the lesson of personal control before cars become nothing more than state controlled shuttles.

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