Why Is Route 66 Dangerous and How to Be Safe?

Route 66, often dubbed the “Main Street of America,” has long held a romantic allure for roadtrippers seeking to explore the vast landscapes of the United States. Originating in Chicago and terminating in Santa Monica, California, this iconic highway offers a slice of vintage Americana, winding through small towns, past classic diners and motels, and across stunning geographical diversities. However, beneath the romantic veneer lies a dangerous reality, why is route 66 dangerous?

The highway has earned a reputation for being perilous, and in this article, we aim to delve into the factors contributing to its hazardous nature.

Geographical Challenges

Route 66 stretches over 2,400 miles across eight states, presenting a myriad of geographical challenges. The sheer length and diverse locations it traverses bring about varying weather conditions – from icy roads in the winter to scorching heat in the summer.

Moreover, the terrain varies significantly along the route, encompassing flat prairies, mountainous areas, and arid deserts. These factors not only make driving physically demanding but also pose different kinds of risks for motorists.

Road Conditions

Route 66 is described as a long and ancient highway, with its 100-year anniversary approaching in 2026. Its age contributes to the deterioration of some road segments, making them potentially hazardous for uninformed travelers​.​ Now, you know why is route 66 dangerous?

A long-awaited road construction project on Route 66 between Arcadia and Luther was slated to begin on January 30, with signs indicating the start of construction. This project has been discussed since 2016, implying that maintenance and upgrades have been a long time coming, which could be indicative of outdated or deteriorating infrastructure on certain segments of the road​​.

Some parts of Route 66 include many dirt roads, especially the abandoned and less traveled sections. Travelers looking to explore these areas should prepare for potentially rough or unstable road conditions.

The weather in the southwest, for instance, was noted as a concern for a traveler planning a trip in March 2023, indicating that weather conditions could further exacerbate the road conditions on these less maintained segments​.

While not directly mentioned in the quoted sources, traffic congestion, especially in urban areas along Route 66, can be inferred from the historical and current popularity of the road for both local and tourist traffic​​.

Accident Statistics

While there isn’t a centralized database providing comprehensive accident statistics specifically for Route 66, recent incidents reported in the media indicate that accidents do occur along this iconic route. These incidents range from single-vehicle accidents to head-on collisions, resulting in injuries and, at times, fatalities. Here’s a breakdown of recent accidents and their implications:

Single-Vehicle Accidents

A recent report mentioned a one-vehicle accident on MO Route 66 near Duenweg, where a driver suffered serious injuries after his vehicle ran off the road. This incident highlights the potential risks associated with driving on Route 66, particularly during the early morning hours when visibility might be reduced or drivers might be less alert​.

Multi-Vehicle Accidents

Another accident reported along Route 66 in Washington Township, Westmoreland County, involved a head-on collision that resulted in injuries to at least four individuals. Such incidents underscore the dangers of head-on collisions on Route 66, which could be due to narrow lanes, lack of median barriers, or other road conditions that may contribute to the likelihood of such accidents​​.

These accidents serve as a reminder of the potential dangers associated with traveling on Route 66. Despite its historical allure and scenic vistas, Route 66 has sections that may pose significant risks to motorists. The varying road conditions, coupled with factors like traffic congestion, weather changes, and possibly inadequate safety features in some segments, contribute to the accident risks on this route.

Safety Measures

Route 66, despite its challenges and historical checkered past, remains an iconic and alluring highway that draws travelers from around the world. We all know why is route 66 dangerous, so we need to find out the remedies.

While accidents and road hazards can occur, it’s important to note that these shouldn’t discourage people from embarking on a journey along this historic route. Instead, travelers should adopt safety measures to ensure a memorable and secure road trip experience:

Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance

Before setting out on Route 66, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect your vehicle. Ensure that brakes, tires, lights, and other essential components are in good working condition. Regular maintenance and a vehicle in top shape can reduce the risk of mechanical failures during your journey.

Plan Your Route and Stops

Plan your itinerary in advance, considering the distance between towns and cities. This will help you avoid fatigue-induced accidents and ensure you have adequate rest stops along the way. Familiarize yourself with the road conditions and potential challenges specific to the segments you plan to travel.

Stay Informed About Weather Conditions

Weather can be a significant factor in road safety, especially on a long cross-country journey like Route 66. Stay up to date about weather conditions along your route, and be ready for sudden changes. Carry essential items like blankets, water, and emergency supplies in case you face inclement weather.

Drive Defensively

Defensive driving is crucial on any road, but especially on Route 66, where conditions can vary. Maintain a safe following distance, obey speed limits, and be cautious when overtaking slower vehicles. Stay alert and avoid distractions, such as texting or using your phone while driving.

Pedestrian Safety

Be aware of pedestrian crossings, especially in towns and urban areas along Route 66. Always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and exercise caution, as some underpasses may no longer be in use, necessitating street-level crossings.

Community Engagement

Route 66 communities often have local initiatives to promote safety and tourism. Engage with locals and seek advice from visitor centers on the best routes and safe practices. They can provide valuable insights into road conditions and potential hazards in their respective areas.

Emergency Contact Information

Carry a list of emergency contact numbers, including local authorities, tow services, and medical facilities. In case of an emergency, having this information readily available can make a critical difference.


Route 66 offers a unique and unforgettable road trip experience, and the goal isn’t to dissuade travelers but to encourage responsible exploration. Now that you know why is route 66 dangerous, be sure to take care!

By adopting safety measures and staying vigilant, you can enjoy the charm and history of Route 66 while minimizing risks and ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey along this iconic highway.

Remember that while the road may have its challenges, with proper preparation, it can be a memorable adventure that captures the spirit of American travel.

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